S. Korea convenes top security conference to discuss Trump's peace overture

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-06-13 17:03 Updated : 2018-06-13 17:03
글씨작게 글씨크게

[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- South Korea will hold a high-level security meeting chaired by President Moon Jae-in this week to discuss U.S. President Donald Trump's sudden overture that he would consider stopping "provocative and expensive" war games between the two traditional allies.

Trump's gesture that followed his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday sprang a surprise to policymakers in Washington and Seoul as the highly sensitive topic appeared not to be coordinated in advance.

"We will be stopping the wargames which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until that we see future negotiation is not going along like it should," Trump told reporters after signing a peace and nuclear agreement with Kim.

"We will be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus I think that it is very provocative," the American leader said when asked about what security assurances he can give in return for North Korea's denuclearization.

Trump's remarks have caused controversy as some security experts believe the proposed suspension of joint military drills would seriously damage a traditional security alliance between Seoul and Washington.

Kim Eui-kyeom, the spokesman for South Korea's presidential office, issued a cautious statement, saying Moon would chair a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) on Thursday to discuss Trump's remarks and a joint statement signed at the summit in Singapore.

"At this point, it is necessary to understand the precise meaning and intention of President Trump's remarks," the spokesman said. "However, during the period of serious dialogue between North Korea and the United States for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of relations, We need to take various steps to make this dialogue more smooth."

There are about 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea under a mutual defense pact dating back to the 1950-53 Korean War. Washington and Seoul insist their joint military exercises are purely defensive in nature, but Pyongyang has condemned them as provocative rehearsals for an attack on the nuclear-armed country.

Suspending joint military drills staged regularly by U.S. and South Korean troops is a sensitive issue in South Korea where conservative groups support a strong security alliance as the centerpiece of deterrence against any aggression by North Korea.

North Korea suspended a scheduled inter-Korean meeting on May 16, blasting an annual joint exercise by about 100 U.S. and South Korean war planes as an intentional provocation that hurt "positive development" on the Korean peninsula. The inter-Korean meeting was rescheduled after Moon held a second summit with Kim.

North Korean troops have staged their own military exercises in response to joint drills by U.S. and South Korean troops, heightening cross-border tensions.