WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Thursday there are no plans to change or reduce the scope of current U.S.-South Korean military exercises that triggered an angry reaction from North Korea and cast doubt on President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Kim Jong Un.
The North abruptly canceled a planned meeting with South Korean officials over the drills and threatened to pull out of the summit, set for June 12 in Singapore, over the U.S. insistence on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
But Trump said Thursday that nothing has changed with respect to North Korea after the warning from Pyongyang. He said North Korean officials are discussing logistical details about the meeting with the U.S. “as if nothing happened.”
Trying to address the North Korean concerns, the president said that if Kim were to agree to denuclearize, “he’ll get protections that would be very strong.”
Speaking at an Oval Office meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump said he will not discuss U.S. troop levels in South Korea during his meeting with Kim.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said the schedule of military exercises hasn’t changed. She added the annual exercises are long-planned, defensive in nature and meant to ensure the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces.
Exercise Max Thunder began Monday and concludes May 25. It includes aircraft from across the U.S. military services. Last year’s exercise included roughly 1,200 U.S. personnel and about 640 South Koreans. This year’s drill is similar.
The North has said it won’t return to talks with Seoul due to the exercises.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News