US President Donald Trump has hailed his personal relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and says there is no reason to resume war games with South Korea.
Mr Trump’s statement came just days after cancelling a planned visit to North Korea by his top diplomat, and a day after US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis hinted that the military drills, which North Korea denounces as rehearsals for invasion, could resume.
Mr Trump tweeted a White House statement in which he once again questioned China’s role in helping to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons that threaten the United States.
The statement said Mr Trump believed North Korea was under “tremendous pressure” from China, but Beijing was also supplying Pyongyang with “considerable aid,” including fuel, fertiliser and commodities.
“This is not helpful!” the statement said.
“Nonetheless, the President believes that his relationship with Kim Jong-un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint US-South Korea war games,” it added.
The statement added that Mr Trump can restart the games at any time and that “if he does, they will be far bigger than ever before.”
The White House Statement also said that the US trade dispute with China and other differences will be resolved and that Mr Trump’s relationship with “China’s great President Xi Jinping” remains very strong.
Mr Trump caught many American military planners off guard when he announced after an unprecedented summit with Mr Kim on June 12 that the United States was suspending this summer’s joint military drills with South Korea, while North Kore would move to denuclearise.
The move was broadly criticised as a premature concession to North Korea, which has resisted US efforts to persuade it to give up its nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, Mr Mattis noted that the suspension of joint military drills with South Korea as a good-faith gesture to North Korea was not open-ended.
On Wednesday, he reiterated that no decisions had been made about suspending any future exercises and stressed the importance of the US alliance with South Korea.
In 2017, the week-long “Vigilant Ace” exercise involved a total of 230 US and South Korean aircraft including stealth jets, according to the US Indo-Pacific Command website.