21 | ENE | 2019
Trump, Kim pile on charm at summit, but no word on progress
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un leave after signing documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks - Photo: Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

Trump, Kim pile on charm at summit, but no word on progress

12/06/2018
17:03
Reuters
Singapore
Steve Holland, Soyoung Kim & Jack Kim
-A +A
They promised in a joint statement to work toward the “denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula and the U.S. promised its Cold War foe security guarantees, yet offering few specifics

U.S. President Donald Trump made a stunning concession to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday about halting military exercises, pulling a surprise at a summit that baffled allies, military officials and lawmakers from his own Republican Party.

At a news conference after the historic meeting with Kim in Singapore, Trump announced he would halt what he called “very provocative” and expensive regular military exercises that the United States holds with South Korea.

That was sure to rattle close allies South Korea and Japan. North Korea has long sought an end to the war games.

The two leaders promised in a joint statement after their meeting to work toward the “denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula, and the United States promised its Cold War foe security guarantees. But they offered few specifics.

The summit, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was in stark contrast to a flurry of North Korean nuclear and missile tests and angry exchanges of insults between Trump and Kim last year that fueled worries about war.

Noting past North Korean promises to denuclearize, many analysts cast doubt on how effective Trump had been at obtaining Washington’s pre-summit goal of getting North Korea to undertake complete, verifiable and irreversible steps to scrap a nuclear arsenal that is advanced enough to threaten the United States.

Critics at home said the U.S. president had given away too much at a meeting that gave international standing to Kim. The North Korean leader is deeply isolated, his country accused by rights groups of widespread human rights abuses and under U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

If implemented, the halting of the joint military exercises would be one of the most controversial moves to come from the summit. The drills help keep U.S. forces at a state of readiness in one of the world’s most tense flashpoints.

“We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should. But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money, plus I think it’s very provocative,” Trump said.

There was some confusion over precisely what military cooperation Trump had promised to halt.

U.S. Senator Cory Gardner told reporters that Vice President Mike Pence promised in a briefing for Republican senators that the Trump administration would “clarify what the president talked about” regarding joint military exercises.

Pentagon officials were not immediately able to provide any details about Trump’s remarks about suspending drills, a step the U.S. military has long resisted.

A spokeswoman for U.S. military forces in Korea said it had not received any direction to cease joint military drills.

Current and former U.S. defense officials expressed concern at the possibility the United States would unilaterally halt military exercises without an explicit concession from North Korea that lowers the threat from Pyongyang.

The U.S.-South Korean exercise calendar hits a high point every year with the Foal Eagle and Max Thunder drills, which both wrapped up last month.

World stock markets were little changed on Tuesday, while the U.S. dollar rose slightly against an index of major currencies, as investors brushed aside the summit.

The joint statement by Trump and Kim made no mention of the sanctions on North Korea and there was no reference to formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War, which killed millions of people and ended in a truce.

But it said the two sides had agreed to recover the remains of prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, so they could be repatriated.

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