The United States and South Korea agreed to indefinitely halt all joint military operations in an effort to facilitate peace with North Korea. This happened on June 19, when South Korea – a week after President Trump had publicly stated the joint operations would end – echoed his position.
Dana White, spokeswoman for the U.S. Defense Department, said planning for the summer drills had stopped, but no decisions have been made on any other military exercises with South Korea. Choi Hyun-soo, the SK Defense Ministry’s spokeswoman, said ,“South Korea and the U.S. made the decision as we believe this will contribute to maintaining such momentum.” (AP)
Yesterday that commitment was affirmed and expanded by U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Vincent Brooks. They are now suspended indefinitely. This is a significant concession to North Korea, which for decades has been alternately asking and demanding for an end to such operations.
Speaking at a security forum in Seoul, Brooks is quoted by the Korea Times:
“I don’t anticipate that this is an end to all exercises and training as we know it, but rather these visible exercises that are right up front that may cause unnecessary irritation at a time when the need for trust building is so important. I will eliminate the doubt and concerns about all military training going away. I don’t have any such instruction coming my way. I don’t feel that is the spirit of our leaders but rather to create room for them to be able to navigate the way forward … to give them room if this helps set the conditions for them to have greater effectiveness in their dialogue and discussions.”
He also provided a weak dismissal of the concerns about the U.S. military leaving the peninsula entirely:
“We shouldn’t have any worry or doubt about the departure of U.S. forces,” he said. “President Trump said he is not interested in doing that right now. President Moon said he is not interested in doing that right now. Neither the National Assembly nor the U.S. Congress has expressed interest in doing that now.”
There was no affirmation of the desire to stay, but rather a recitation that none of the key players want the forces to leave “right now.” Even his commitment to the alliance was tepid:
“I prefer to live every day I have because there is no guarantee how long it is going to last, not my life, not my alliance,” he said. “So right now, how about let’s just live the alliance. That is what we should be doing every single day.”
The cessation of joint operations is being done with for the expressed purpose of facilitating peace with North Korea, which has agreed to cease all nuclear testing. (Reuters)
Meanwhile, shortly before Commander Gen. Brooks made his remarks, images were confirmed by 38 North that North Korea, in what would at first glance appear to be a direct refutation of its pledge to President Trump, is upgrading its reactor facilities. (Wall Street Journal)
From Fox News:
Despite North Korea’s promise to work toward “complete denuclearization” following the historic summit with Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump earlier this month, new satellite imagery indicates North Korea is making improvements to one of its nuclear scientific research centers at a “rapid pace.”
At issue here is the lack of specificity. NK’s pledge to work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” was meaningless, insofar as it provides neither timeline nor even a target date for any action and it leaves the definition of “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” up to the various parties to decide who must remove all nuclear weapons first. For that reason, despite the appearance of Kim Jong Un ignoring his pledge, he can not be demonstrated to have violated the mutual agreement.
There are also indications that North Korea is not officially pursuing peace but rather a strategy designed to strengthen their military position. The most obvious of these is the recent execution of a prominent military officer for the crime of saying that North Korea wanted peace. From the UK Telegraph:
A senior North Korean military officer who told colleagues they no longer needed to “suffer and tighten our belts to make rockets and nuclear weapons” has been executed by firing squad, according to reports in dissident media.
Lt. Gen. Hyon appears to have become excited at the possibility that the detente that has taken place on the Korean Peninsula this year will develop into full-blown peace and got ahead of official party policy.
This is why Mike Pompeo, while trying to not contradict the President, nonetheless contradicted the President’s statement about North Korea’s nuclear threat status, as covered earlier by Tiff.