US, South Korea Likely To Suspend Major Military Drills This Week

North Korea's Kim visiting China on June 19-20 – state media

The Singapore meeting resulted in a surprise announcement of a US suspension of military drills with its South Korean ally, a goal long pursued by Beijing and Pyongyang.

North Korea's Kim Jong-un is making a two-day visit to China, a week after meeting US President Donald Trump.

At a joint press conference with Genron NPO in Seoul, he said that "figuring out the right methodology to resolve the nuclear issue and achieving global cooperation could be quite hard if Japan's pessimistic view toward North Korea and the huge difference with South Korea persist".

According to North Korean state media on Monday, Kim sent a "congratulatory letter and floral basket" along with his "warmest congratulations and comradely greeting to respected Comrade Xi Jinping" to celebrate his 65th birthday. China is North Korea's most important diplomatic and economic backer but has been angered by its nuclear and missile tests.

South Korean marines participate in a landing operation referred to as Foal Eagle joint military exercise with USA troops on Pohang seashore on April 2, 2017, in Pohang, South Korea.

Defense officials are also scrambling to pull together cost estimates for the various exercises with South Korea to inform Trump's assertion that the suspension will save an enormous amount of money.

Immediately after the announcement, US forces in Korea said they had received no guidance on stopping any drills, and South Korean officials said they were trying to figure out which exercises Trump was referring to.

"I shouldn't be surprised", said one government official.

Stability on the Korean Peninsula and thus along parts of its border, whether that includes denuclearization or not, is of high importance of high importance to China.

Recent reports, too, hint that Beijing is increasingly loosening its enforcement of United Nations sanctions along the Sino-DPRK border - claims even alluded to by President Trump at a press conference following his meeting with Kim last week.

North Korea's Kim visiting China on June 19-20 – state media
Kim Jong Un begins two-day visit to China following denuclearisation summit

The other major USA exercises with South Korea - Key Resolve and Foal Eagle - took place earlier this spring.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll reported skepticism among Americans that last week's summit will ultimately lead North Korea to relinquish its nuclear program - the goal of the United States - with 53 percent of those surveyed saying it likely would not lead to that outcome.

"Through close discussions with the United States, [the two countries] chose to suspend all of the planned activities regarding Freedom Guardian military drills", the South Korean Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The president's announcement appeared to catch USA defense officials by surprise, and his comments ran counter to long-held American arguments that the exercises are critical for effective operations with allies and are defensive in nature.

Trump also touched on a few other subjects Sunday morning, including the viral photo shared by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 summit which depicted her staring down the U.S. President.

"Kim is reaching out to traditional friends and rivals and it really complicates the U.S. position of maximizing pressure on North Korea", said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo.

The past negotiations, which were known as the "six party talks" because they included representatives from the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea, ultimately fell apart in 2009.

There was also confusion over Mr Trump calling the drills "provocative", a term hitherto used by North Korea to describe them.

Apart from a potentially lucrative cross-border trade, China has also strategic interests in the Korean peninsula, which includes being wary of United States military presence in South Korea.


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