SOUTH KOREA CONFUSED: A statement released by Moon’s office seemed to confirm the South Korean president was blindsided. “At this moment we need to figure out President Trump’s accurate meaning and intention of this comment,” said the statement from the Blue House. “However, we believe we need to seek various measures how to efficiently move forward the dialogues [as] serious talks are being conducted to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and establish relationships between North Korea and the United States.”
QUICK REACTION: Speaking on CNN, Joseph Yun, the former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said he was baffled by the concession. “South Korea is a little confused. What does it mean to stop war games?” Yun said.
“This has been the standard demand, that we stop joint military exercise for decades now. We’ve never given that in, because it’s been our right and it means readiness for our troops. I mean, what’s the point of having troops there if they’re not ready? If they cannot exercise?”
FLASHBACK: Remember what former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in January? “Let me be clear: We will not allow North Korea to drive a wedge through our resolve or our solidarity. We reject a ‘freeze-for-freeze’ approach in which legitimate defensive military exercises are placed on the same level of equivalency as the DPRK’s unlawful actions.”
Of course, Tillerson’s great weakness was that it was never clear if he was actually speaking for the president.
MATTIS ON TROOP PRESENCE: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters yesterday he does not believe a reduction in U.S. troops in South Korea is part of the negotiation. Any drawdown of the roughly 28,500 troops now stationed in the South would have to first be negotiated by Seoul and Washington and no such talks are underway, Mattis said during an impromptu press conference at Pentagon
Trump said as much this morning, although he said eventually he would like to withdraw U.S. forces, which he says number 32,000. “At some point, I have to be honest. … I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home,” Trump said. “But that’s not part of the equation right now. At some point, I hope it will be.”
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