Trump says US-South Korea war games ‘will be far bigger than ever before’ if he decides to restart the exercises

U.S. and South Korean marines participate in a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang March 31, 2014.

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U.S. and South Korean marines participate in a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang March 31, 2014.
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Kim Hong-Ji/REUTERS

  • President Donald Trump warned in a White House statement Wednesday that joint military exercises “will be far bigger than ever before” if he decides to restart drills.
  • He has yet to make that decision, asserting that the relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un remains stable despite apparent setbacks, which he blamed on China.
  • Trump expressed optimism that all disputes can be resolved.

President Donald Trump canceled joint military exercises with South Korea as a concession to the North for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during his summit with Kim Jong Un in June, but a White House statement released on Wednesday warned that, decide to restart the drills, the war games “will be far bigger than ever before.”

Negotiations between the US and North Korea have hit a snag. Last Friday, the president canceled what would have been Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang after receiving a reportedly “belligerent” letter that warned that talks are “again at stake and may fall apart.”

In the White House statement, Trump put the blame for the breakdown in bilateral negotiations on China, which the president accused of providing the North with assistance that Trump characterized as “not helpful!” He suggested that China is pressuring North Korea to act out due to Beijing’s dissatisfaction with the ongoing trade spat with Washington.

A report from Vox on Wednesday, however, suggested that North Korea may be expressing frustration with the Trump administration’s failure to make a good on a reported promise Trump made to Kim in Singapore, a promise to sign a declaration ending the Korean War.

The president explained that, despite setbacks, he considers his relationship with North Korea to be a “warm one,” adding that he sees no reason to spend “large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games.”

He is apparently optimistic that his administration will be able to resolve disputes with both China and North Korea in an acceptable manner.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis explained Tuesday at the Pentagon that the US suspended several large joint exercises this year to provide space for American diplomats to negotiate with their North Korean counterparts to address key issues.

He left the door open for the possibility that joint drills with South Korea could resume should conditions require such an action.