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US Sending Mixed Signals on N. Korea

While Trump has asserted that Pyongyang “is no longer a nuclear threat”, the White House in an announcement on Friday said North Korea remains an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States
US President Donald Trump (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12US President Donald Trump (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12

The White House in an announcement on Friday said North Korea remains an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to the United States despite President Donald Trump's assertion last week that Pyongyang "is no longer a nuclear threat."

Furthermore, on the same day the Pentagon said the United States and South Korea have agreed to indefinitely suspend two exchange program training exercises, in the aftermath of the summit earlier this month between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The Trump administration on Friday issued a routine notice to congress describing the threat as reasoning for keeping sanctions in place on North Korea, the Hill reported.

"The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula and the actions and policies of the Government of North Korea continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States," the notice read.

The US president, upon returning from his summit in Singapore last week with the North Korean leader, said Pyongyang "no longer" posed a nuclear threat.

"Just landed—a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea," Trump wrote on Twitter June 13.

"Meeting with Kim Jong-un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!"

>Contradictory Rhetoric

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, in a statement, criticized the administration for contradicting Trump's own rhetoric on North Korea.

"The report of President Trump's own administration completely undercuts his statements over the last few weeks," Schumer said. "We have to treat these negotiations far more seriously than just as a photo opp. Saying the North Korea problem is solved doesn't make it so."

Trump and Kim signed a joint statement that said the US would give Pyongyang unspecific "security guarantees" while Kim stated "his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

But the statement did not include any specific details on how the two nations would attain these promises.

>Drills' Suspension

The United States and South Korea have agreed to indefinitely suspend two exchange program training exercises, the Pentagon said on Friday, Reuters reported.

"To support implementing the outcomes of the Singapore Summit, and in coordination with our Republic of Korea ally, Defense Secretary James Mattis has indefinitely suspended select exercises," Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

"This includes suspending Freedom Guardian along with two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises scheduled to occur in the next three months," White said.

Regarding suspension of the exercises, South Korea's defense ministry said, "South Korea and the US decided to delay two of KMEP [drills] indefinitely, which was going to take place within the next three months.

"This is a part of follow-up measures after the North Korea-US summit and South Korea-North Korea summit. There could be additional measures should North Korea follow suit with productive cooperation."

At a news conference after the meeting with Kim in Singapore, Trump announced that he would halt what he called "very provocative" and expensive regular military exercises that the United States holds with South Korea. North Korea had long sought an end to the war games.

This week, the United States and South Korea said they were suspending planning for August Freedom Guardian exercise.

Last year, 17,500 American troops and more than 50,000 South Korean troops joined the Freedom Guardian drills, although the exercise is mostly focused on computerized simulations rather than field exercises.

>Little Significance

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, played down the significance of suspending the Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises, saying they were relatively minor.

Mattis met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and Trump's national security adviser John Bolton on Friday, White said.

"In support of upcoming diplomatic negotiations led by Secretary Pompeo, additional decisions will depend upon the DPRK continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith," she added, referring to North Korea.

Every spring, the United States and South Korea conduct Foal Eagle and Max Thunder drills, both of which wrapped up in May.

The decision to halt military exercises with South Korea baffled allies, military officials and lawmakers. The drills help keep US forces at a state of readiness in one of the world's most tense flashpoints.

At the Singapore talks, North Korea also agreed to allow the recovery of the remains of soldiers who went missing in action during the Korean War.

On Saturday, the US military began moving caskets to North Korea for the recovery of some remains, the UN Command in South Korea said in a statement.

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