On Thursday, Washington said that its main joint military exercises with South Korea are now “suspended indefinitely,” even though sanctions imposed on North Korea to convince Pyongyang to permanently abandon its nuclear arsenal are maintained.
Two days after the surprise announcement of US President Donald Trump to stop the “provocative” military exercises after his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a senior US official told reports that “the main maneuvers are suspended indefinitely on the Korean Peninsula.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Seoul with his South Korean and Japanese allies before being received in Beijing by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who hailed “a successful summit.”
In Seoul, the head of the US diplomacy reaffirmed that Washington’s goal remains “the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.”
The text signed Tuesday in Singapore by the two leaders has been criticized by many experts because the heir of the Kim Dynasty is committed to a “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
This vague formula, subject to different interpretations, takes up a promise already made and which has never been kept.
We believe that Kim Jong-un has understood the urgency of the timetable to carry out this denuclearization and that we must do so quickly.
Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State
The United States is “hopeful” that “the bulk of disarmament” North Korea may intervene “in the next two and a half years,” or by the end of the term of the President Republican.
“In the past, economic and financial pressure has been relaxed before complete denuclearization. It will not happen this time, President Trump made it clear during his meeting with Kim Jong-un, “said Pompeo.
“The lifting of sanctions can not take place until there is evidence that North Korea has been completely denuclearized,” he said.
While Russians and Chinese have suggested that the UN consider easing sanctions if Pyongyang complies with its obligations, Pompeo assured that China, through which 90% of North Korean trade passes, “reaffirmed its commitment to the UN Security Council resolutions “.
“We really think we can finally move forward, after so many years, on the road to peace on the Korean peninsula,” said Pompeo after a meeting in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. “But there is always a risk of not doing it,” he added.
He also confirmed that the cessation of joint military exercises between Washington and South Korea is conditional on the continuation of “productive” and “good faith” negotiations with North Koreans for the implementation of the agreement. from Singapore.
An irritant for Pyongyang
The next planned joint exercise, named Ulchi Freedom Guardian, was to be held in late August or early September, as it does every year.
North Korea has long called for the end of these exercises, which it considers to be the repetition of the general invasion of its territory. Pyongyang has often reacted by conducting his own military operations.
The future US ambassador to Seoul, who until last month commanded US forces in the Pacific, approved the decision to suspend these maneuvers, saying “the situation has changed dramatically” since the Trump-Kim summit.
“We should take a break from the exercises, the major exercises, to see if Kim Jong-un is serious about his part of the negotiations,” former admiral Harry Harris told a congressional committee.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha stayed behind on this controversial issue, which appeared to be a big US concession to Kim Jong-un.
This will have to be coordinated between the military authorities of the two allies, she said, preferring to ensure that “the alliance between South Korea and the United States” was “stronger than ever “.
While warmly welcoming the “success” of the summit, a “turning point” for Seoul to bring peace, she stressed that follow-up negotiations with Pyongyang would be crucial to achieve “substantial progress.”.
An idea picked up by the head of Japanese diplomacy Taro Kono.
“We had a frank discussion on how to urge North Korea to take concrete action,” he said, seeming to point to the lack of details and timing in the Singapore statement.
On the “security assurances” promised by Donald Trump to Kim Jong-un, the head of Japanese diplomacy said he was assured that they had “not yet been granted” and that this would only in exchange for progress towards denuclearization.
Same thing for the “break” in the US-South Korean exercises. “We believe that the Japan-US alliance, as well as the deterrence” to which these military maneuvers contribute “play a crucial role for security in North-East Asia,” he insisted, letting the concern already expressed by Tokyo.