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Mattis: No Plans To Discuss That Thing Kim Really Wants From A Trump Summit
When President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un meet in Singapore on Tuesday, Kim is almost certain to press the United States to withdraw its troops from South Korea. But that is not an issue for North Korea to decide, said Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“That would be a discussion between two democracies: The Republic of Korea and the United States,” Mattis told reporters on Monday. “It’s a relationship between our leaders and those two countries. That is not something that other countries would have – I would say – initial domain over a discussion with us. We’re the only ones who make up our mind on this.”
The United States and South Korea are not currently talking about withdrawing any of the roughly 26,000 U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula, Mattis said at a Pentagon press briefing.
“That would be a discussion between two democracies: The Republic of Korea and the United States.”
When asked if removing U.S. troops from South Korea is one the topics that is on the agenda for the president’s meeting with Kim, Mattis replied: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them out there. I don’t believe it is.”
Trump and Kim are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs, but the president has cautioned that the summit is meant to mark the beginning of a dialogue between the two countries rather than the conclusion of negotiations.
“We’re not going to go in and sign something on June 12th and we never were,” Trump told White House reporters on June 1. “We’re going to start a process. And I told them today: ‘Take your time. We can go fast. We can go slowly.’ But I think they’d like to see something happen. And if we can work that out, that will be good. But the process will begin on June 12th in Singapore.”
Mattis declined to answer a reporter’s question about how he feels North Korea should be required to verify that it has destroyed its nuclear weapons as part of any agreement with the United States.
He emphasized that the U.S. government’s efforts to reach an agreement with North Korea are being handled by diplomats and he did not want to “say anything at all that makes their job that they’re responsible for more difficult.”
“If you’re going to say it’s diplomatically led, you have to allow the diplomats to frame the issue,” Mattis said. “They have to frame it in terms of time, in terms of the specific types of weapons – obviously, nuclear would be one, but there’s others that could be involved. My job is to find space to find solutions to support the diplomats. So you’ll never see me go ahead on something like that.”
North Korea has not tested a ballistic missile since November and it has not increased its military’s state of readiness, he said.
“All’s quiet,” Mattis said.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has confirmed that a nightmare scenario has come to pass: Captured ISIS fighters are escaping as a result of Turkey's invasion of Kurdish-held northeast Syria.
Turkey's incursion has led to "the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees," Esper said in a statement on Monday.
Video footage of a purported "bombing of Kurd civilians" by Turkish military forces shown on ABC News appeared to be a nighttime firing of tracer rounds at a Kentucky gun range.
The U.S. military's seemingly never-ending mission supporting civil authorities along the southwestern border will last at least another year.
On Sept. 3, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide a total of up to 5,500 troops along the border until Sept. 30, 2020, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Army North, said on Monday.