U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday clarified his previous statements on the fate of additional large-scale exercises on the Korean Peninsula, leaving open the possibility of future cancellations.
“Our military posture has not changed since the conclusion of the Singapore summit, and no decisions have been made about suspending any future exercises,” Mattis said.
“Our forces maintain a high state of military readiness and vigilance in full support of a diplomatically led effort to bring peace, prosperity and stability to the Korean Peninsula,” he added.
At a Tuesday briefing, the defense secretary told Pentagon reporters he had “no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises” on the Korean Peninsula.
Minutes later, however, when asked whether that meant next year’s large-scale exercises on the peninsula known as Ulchi-Freedom Guardian and Foal Eagle were now back on, Mattis replied that the Pentagon had “not made decisions on that at this time” and would “do that in consultation” with the State Department.
Mattis stressed Tuesday that while “several of the largest exercises” on the peninsula had been suspended to allow room for negotiations with Pyongyang, all other exercises were continued in order to maintain military readiness.
“So there are ongoing exercises all the time on the peninsula,” Mattis said. “They’ve never been turned off.”
Mattis insisted both at the briefing and in his new statement on Wednesday that the Pentagon would do whatever was needed to support diplomats working to denuclearize North Korea.