Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the US has no plans to suspend major joint US-South Korea military exercises, which were discontinued earlier this year as part of a “good-faith” effort in denuclearization discussions with North Korea, even though other smaller exercises have continued.
“We took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good-faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit,” Mattis told reporters at a briefing at the Pentagon. “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises,” he said, but indicated no decisions had been made on major exercises for next year.
Mattis emphasized on several occasions throughout the briefing that the State Department was the leader in talks over denuclearization.
“We stay in a supporting role,” he said. “We will work very closely with the secretary of state, and what he needs done we will certainly do to reinforce his effort, but at this time there has been no discussion of further suspensions.”
Despite this, Mattis also said “We suspended several of the largest exercises, but we did not suspend the rest, so there are ongoing exercises all the time on the peninsula.”
The comments come on the heels of comments doubting the commitment of the North Koreans to denuclearize, including President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to North Korea earlier this week, citing a lack of progress.