ABC News: The Pentagon has suspended planning for a major military exercise in August in South Korea as a direct result of President Donald Trump’s pledge to stop “wargames” following the Singapore summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Notably, the Pentagon statement announcing the suspension used the term “wargame” instead of the standard term “military exercise.”
“Consistent with President Trump’s commitment and in concert with our Republic of Korea ally, the United States military has suspended all planning for this August’s defensive “wargame” (Freedom Guardian),” said Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokesperson.
“We are still coordinating additional actions,” said White. “No decisions on subsequent wargames have been made.”
Trump also had called the exercises “provocative,” using the same language that North Korea has used for years in objecting to the readiness drills.
White said that later this week Defense Secretary James Mattis would meet at the Pentagon with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton to discuss “this issue.”
“There is no impact on Pacific exercises outside of the Korean Peninsula,” said White.
Monday’s announcement appeared to be the Pentagon’s first use of the term “wargame” to describe what has been consistently described as military exercises before Trump last week used it to describe the military exercises held annually by the U.S. and South Korean militaries.
Trump cited what he said were the high costs of the large-scale exercises as one reason why he was stopping them and surprisingly called them “very provocative.”
That announcement seemed to catch senior military officials by surprise though the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Mattis was consulted beforehand about the president’s announcement. Since Trump’s announcement, the Pentagon has not been able to provide an estimate of the cost of the annual military exercises.
The Pentagon has consistently labeled the annual large-scale exercises as defensive in nature and crucial to maintaining the readiness of both American and South Korean troops to fight back any military aggression from North Korea.
The 28,500 American troops permanently stationed in South Korea participate year round in a variety of air, ground and sea exercises with the South Korean military.
The exercises focus on ways that the U.S. and South Korea could repel a North Korean attack at a moment’s notice, a commitment reflected in U.S. Forces Korea’s motto of “Fight Tonight.”
The mostly computer-based exercise known as Ulchi Freedom Guard was slated to begin in August, last year’s version of the exercise involved more than 17,000 troops.
For now, there appears to be no impact on the other main military exercise known as Foal Eagle that takes place every spring.