Mattis: US Could Restart Large-Scale Wargames In South Korea

news
An M109A6 Paladin fires a round down range during 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-US Combined Division Table XII certification at Fire Point 95, Yeoncheon, Republic of Korea, Dec. 6, 2017. The live-fire exercise was designed to certify the battalion ensuring they can operate effectively within the brigade, and to enhance their readiness for real-time firing missions.
U.S. Army photo / Pfc. Keonhee Lee.

U.S. troops may resume holding large-scale military exercises in South Korea, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters on Tuesday.


During a rare on-camera Pentagon news briefing alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Mattis said the U.S. military does not expect to suspend any further military exercises on the Korean peninsula. But the U.S. government has not yet decided whether to hold Ulchi Freedom Guardian in 2019. The regularly scheduled wargames were cancelled this year as part of denuclearization negotiations with North Korea.

“We suspended several exercises at the direction of the president,” Mattis said. “A good faith effort was made. We have done no planning for suspending others. Obviously, we know what exercises are out there, so we could do that if directed to. But right now, there are no plans to go further.”

But Mattis declined to say when the next large-scale military exercises in South Korea might be held. Instead, he noted that U.S. troops have continued to take part in smaller training events with the South Korean military.

“The reason you’ve not heard much about them is North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiation,” he said. “So the exercises continue. What it means in practical terms is that we’re making no changes to the exercise program at this time.”

Mattis’ announcement seemed to indicate the U.S. government is taking a harder line on North Korea, but he clarified that U.S. officials have not yet decided whether to proceed with next year’s Ulchi Freedom Guardian or other training events, such as Foal Eagle. “We’ll do that in consultation with State,” he added.

On June 12, President Donald Trump seemed to catch the Pentagon off guard when he announced that the United States would suspend Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which he called “tremendously expensive” and “very provocative.”  

“Under the circumstances that we are negotiating a very comprehensive, complete deal, I think it’s inappropriate to be having war games,” Trump said after meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Kong Un in Singapore.

Then, on Aug. 24, the president tweeted that he had cancelled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned trip to North Korea because, “I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

When reporters pressed Mattis on Tuesday about what has changed since Trump ordered the Pentagon to suspend Ulchi Freedom Guardian in June, things got confusing. Here is a partial transcript of his exchanges with journalists, edited for clarity and length (emphasis ours):

Q: Mr. Secretary, when you say that the initial decision was a good faith gesture and now you’re not planning to suspend anymore at the moment, are you suggesting that North Korea is acting in bad faith?

A: No. Not at all. We did what we did at the time for that purpose. So, that’s why we did it.

Q: After the Singapore summit 11 weeks ago, the U.S. administration talked about these exercises as “wargames.” The president characterized them as “provocative.” If the U.S. does turn these large exercises back on, have they now become provocative wargames? Is it an act of …

A: We’re not turning them back on. They’ve never been turned off. We turned off several to make a good faith effort. We are going to see how the negotiations go and then we’ll calculate the future, how we go forward. I mean, this is about as straightforward as I can put it.

Q: Forgive me, so if the U.S. goes forward with the exercises again – as they have annually – next year, are they now a “provocative” act …

A: I don’t have a crystal ball right now. Let’s see how the negotiations go. Even answering a question in that manner could influence the negotiations. Let’s let the diplomats go forward. We all know the gravity of the issues they’re dealing with. We’ll deal with supporting the diplomats, as I’ve said repeatedly.

Task & Purpose was unable to get further clarity on Mattis’ comments by deadline.

WATCH NEXT:

A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.

It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.

Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.

Read More Show Less

No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.

Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.

"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.

Read More Show Less
A projectile is fired during North Korea's missile tests in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019. (KCNA via Reuters)

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.

The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.

Read More Show Less

Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.

In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.

"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.

Read More Show Less
Erik Prince arrives for the New York Young Republican Club Gala at The Yale Club of New York City in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., November 7, 2019. (REUTERS/Jeenah Moon)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

Read More Show Less