President Trump on Wednesday said there was “no reason” for joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises at the moment, citing ongoing discussions over North Korea’s nuclear program.
“The President believes that his relationship with Kim Jong Un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games,” the White House said in a statement that Trump himself issued on Twitter.
“Besides, the President can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses,” the statement added.
The Trump administration statement came one day after Defense Secretary James Mattis said there were no plans to suspend future military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.
Mattis later clarified, however, that there has been “no decision” about suspending more exercises following the three that were cancelled after Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year.
“Our military posture has not changed since the conclusion of the Singapore summit and no decisions have been made about suspending any future exercises,” Mattis said in a statement Wednesday.
Following the summit between Trump and Kim in June, the Pentagon said it would indefinitely suspend the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise and two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises with South Korea as part of diplomatic negotiations with the North.
The Trump administration has been engaged with North Korea for several months in an effort to scale back Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but those efforts have appeared to hit a roadblock in recent weeks.
Trump last week abruptly cancelled a planned trip for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to travel to Pyongyang to continue negotiations. The Washington Post reported that Trump nixed the trip after a North Korean official signaled in a letter that the meeting would not be successful.
On Wednesday, the White House argued that China was partially to blame for the stalled efforts, accusing Beijing of applying “tremendous pressure” to North Korea because of the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
“At the same time, we also know that China is providing North Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer and various other commodities,” the White House said. “This is not helpful!”
However, the White House added that the trade disputes with China will be “resolved” and described Trump’s relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping as “very strong.”