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Analysts slam Trump for stopping joint military drills

By Kim Jae-kyoung

SINGAPORE ― Global analysts have criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for his plan to halt joint military drills with South Korea, which he announced Tuesday at a press conference following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

They believe Trump gave too many concessions to Kim without receiving pledges over how and when Kim will dismantle the North's nuclear weapons.

Troy Stangarone
"Trump's agreement to end military exercises is a significant concession on the part of the U.S., but we will have to see if there are concrete measures taking place on North Korea's part," Troy Stangarone, a Washington-based expert on the Korean Peninsula, told The Korea Times.

"The agreement to end military exercises will have implications for the U.S. and South Korea's ability to deter North Korea and defend against attack."

Sean King, senior vice president of Park Strategies, echoed his view, saying, "Trump calls our war games provocative. Unbelievably inappropriate comment."

Sean King
"Plus, Kim got us to say complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is North Korean code for South Korea's removal from the U.S. nuclear umbrella."

He thinks the summit brought no progress, saying most points in the Trump-Kim agreement mirror points from the 2005 joint statement.

"I'm glad there's no mention of U.S. troop withdrawals but we should only establish relations with the North if the North recognizes the South," he said.

"After all, we only recognized East Germany in 1974 after the two Germanys recognized each other in 1972."

Most analysts have shown disappointment at the outcome of the summit, describing it as the deal with few details.

Douglas Webber
Douglas Webber, professor of Political Science at INSEAD, said the agreement is a statement or declaration of intent, devoid of any detail.

"It is at best the beginning of a (long-term) negotiation process, not the end. For the summit to prove to be very meaningful, it will need to be followed up by further negotiations and substantive agreements," he said.

"The sequencing of mutual concessions and the verification of any steps North Korea agrees to take toward denuclearization will be crucial."

Stephan Haggard, director of the Korea-Pacific Program at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, agreed.

Stephan Haggard
"It's hard to escape from the conclusion that this was a weak summit outcome. It is possible that more was agreed to than we've seen but there is little to support the conclusion that the U.S. and its allies got much from the summit," he said.

"The declaration is extremely vague, with no overarching framework, timeline or short-term commitments, beyond the surprising commitment of the president to suspend the joint military exercises in the fall."

James Bindenagel, the Henry Kissinger Professor for Governance and International Security at Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn, Germany, described the pact as "a good step," but said the parties should have outlined how they plan to get there.

James Bindenagel
"This is a baby step toward denuclearization, but there is no strategy outlined for the process. Uncertainty will continue," he said.

"Kim won Trump's recognition without giving up his nuclear weapons, which is a significant concession by Trump."

Noting that the two of them have endorsed the Panmunjeom Declaration, he said, "President Moon has the backing of the U.S. to talk with North Korea on peace on the peninsula."

Haggard stressed it is worthwhile focusing on Kim's reaffirmation of the Panmunjeom Declaration.

"It only commits Kim Jong-un to working toward denuclearization, a lengthy process, and doing so in the context of the favored North Korean formulation of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he said.

Regarding the statement on exercises, he said, "It is classic Trump, as his own USFK commander did not appear to know about the concession and South Korea does not appear to have been consulted in advance."

Bindenagel said recovering the remains of the war dead is important to tell the story of the North's 1950 invasion of South Korea that resulted in the United Nations declaring war.

"The U.S. and its allies fought as the U.N. Command to the stalemate of 1953. Remembrance of the facts of that war is a grim reminder of the history of North Korea that needs to be overcome.