The United States and South Korea have announced they will scrap huge military drills the two countries have traditionally held annually.
The large-scale maneuvers, always designed to simulate all-out war with North Korea, will be replaced with smaller, mission-specific training, according to Defense Department officials.
President Donald Trump explained the reasoning behind the decision as purely economic. Trump tweeted late last week that the reason he canceled large-scale springtime military drills with South Korea is to save “hundreds of millions of dollars” that the U.S. is never reimbursed for.
But according to both the Pentagon and South Korea’s defense ministry, the move is aimed at reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula and resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis.
In a way the announcement was a bit ironic. The plan to scrap the drills came a week after the most recent meeting between DPRK and the United States in Hanoi, which failed at reaching a resolution.
On the other hand, however, this is exactly what should have been expected from the White House in the wake of diplomatic negotiations that ended in disappointment. Trump has long used the annual drills as a bargaining chip with North Korea. This is because leaders in Pyongyang have seen these exercises as foreshadowing an actual invasion of their country—and in a way they’re actually correct. Back in June, Trump cancelled an upcoming exercise with the South as a token gesture to Kim Jong Un. Now, as the administration is reeling from the failure in the Vietnamese capital, the message they are sending is clear: we are not walking away permanently, and we’d like to actually see this through.