The Pentagon said Tuesday that President Donald Trump consulted with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on his decision to hold off on military exercises with South Korea during negotiations with North Korea.
At a press briefing, Pentagon spokesperson Dana White was asked whether Mattis was surprised by Trump’s announcement.
“He was not surprised. He was consulted. The secretary has been in full consultation with Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo as well as the president,” White said, adding Mattis is in full alignment with Trump to denuclearize the peninsula.
“We welcome the outcomes. We support them,” she added.
Trump made the announcement on the suspension of joint military exercises during an unprecedented meeting Tuesday on Singapore’s Sentosa Island, where he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a “comprehensive” deal in front of international camera crews, starting the denuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula.
Despite Seoul and Washington insisting for years that the exercises were defensive in nature, Trump made a sharp U-Turn and vowed to end the “provocative” exercises as a concession to Pyongyang.
Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned the series of annual U.S.-South Korean military drills, complaining they are rehearsals for an invasion.
“We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should,” Trump said at a press conference following the summit in Singapore, noting there are 32,000 U.S. soldiers in South Korea and he eventually wants to bring them all back to the U.S.
The South Korean government issued a statement that Trump’s pledge had caught them by surprise, saying it was trying to determine his intentions.