The Pentagon denied rumors this week that the United States is planning to scale back scheduled joint military exercises with South Korea ahead of the June 12 meeting between American President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Dana White, a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) spokeswoman, told Pentagon reporters on Thursday:
The scope of our exercises have not changed. I won’t be able to speak to specific details. But our exercises are annual. They’ve been longstanding. They’re defensive in nature, and they will continue…This is something that we do to ensure the readiness of both our forces as well as the South Korean forces.
Our schedule for our exercises continue. Everything else that is firmly in the hands of the diplomats, we will continue to ensure our readiness and to ensure that we are ready and — and able to do whatever we need to do.
Despite North Korea’s threatening to cancel the Trump-Kim nuclear summit over the U.S.-South drills, the Pentagon spokeswoman said the upcoming meeting would take place as scheduled.
Her comments came after the Pentagon assured it would keep military pressure on North Korea until “complete” denuclearization.
The U.S.-South Korea drills have long been meant to serve as a deterrent against North Korea aggression and as a means to prepare for an invasion of the North if necessary.
On Tuesday, South Korea threatened to pull out of the Trump-Kim summit over the joint American-South Korean drill.
The Kim regime specifically expressed opposition to the participation of the nuclear-capable B-52 heavy bombers during the Max Thunder exercise, described the Pentagon press secretary as an “annual, they’ve been longstanding, they’re defensive in nature, and they will continue.”
In an apparent move to appease North Korea, the U.S. canceled a training exercise with the South involving the B-52s, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Thursday.
President Trump conceded that the looming June 12 meeting with the North Korean madman is still in the air, saying, “We haven’t been notified at all. We’ll have to see.”
Nevertheless, the White House continues to prepare for the historic summit.
“The president is prepared and will be ready to meet, and we’re continuing to move forward with the preparations at this point. If the North Koreans want to meet we’ll be there,” Sanders said at the daily White House press briefing.