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South Korea says alliance with US ‘as robust as ever’

Muslim Times(Web Desk) -South Korea says its alliance with the United States remains “as robust as ever,” two days after US President Donald Trump suggested that he would end the US’s annual war games with the South and bring American soldiers in the region back home.

“The alliance between South Korea and the United States is as robust as ever,” South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said at a press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Seoul on Thursday.

“The joint South Korea-US military exercise is a matter for the South Korea-United States alliance. In terms of that, it is an issue that should be decided by military authorities,” she added.

Following a first-ever summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, Trump suggested he would halt its “provocative” joint military drills with South Korea.

“The war games are very expensive, we pay for the majority of them,” Trump told a news conference in Singapore. “Under the circumstances, that we’re negotiating… I think it’s inappropriate to be having war games.”

“We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should. But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it’s very provocative,” Trump said.

The annual drills have in the past been a major source of tension on the Korean Peninsula but have also been considered by Seoul and Tokyo as a bulwark against perceived North Korean aggression.

Japan reacted with concern at Washington’s plans to end military exercises with Seoul, saying such drills were vital for East Asian security.

At the end of that summit, Trump and Kim signed a brief, broadly-worded document according to which both sides committed to working “towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The top diplomats from the US, South Korea, and Japan on Thursday promised to work together to ensure that Pyongyang would abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Pompeo, who is tasked by the US president with leading follow-on negotiations, stressed that North Korea was committed to giving up its nuclear activities but said it would “be a process, not an easy one.”

The US secretary of state also met South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said the world had escaped the threat of war after this week’s Singapore summit between the US and North Korean leaders.

“There have been many analyses on the outcome of the summit, but I think what’s most important was that the people of the world, including those in the United States, Japan, and Koreans, have all been able to escape the threat of war, nuclear weapons, and missiles,” Moon told Pompeo during the bilateral meeting.

The Trump-Kim summit came after a remarkable turnaround by both the US and North Korea. Last year saw the pair slinging insults at each other and trading threats of military attacks.

The US and the United Nations (UN) have imposed rounds of sanctions on North Korea over its weapons programs over the last several years.

Despite the summit and the document signed by the US and North Korean leaders, the Trump White House has failed to work out any specifics for North Korea’s potential denuclearization or even a sustainable road map for future relations with Pyongyang. As a result, much remains hinged on follow-on diplomacy.

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