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Economist & Neocons condemn Trump-Kim deal, from Peter Myers

I had heard that Lord Rothschild was a hawk, but did not believe it until I saw this week's Economist, with its attack on the Kim-Trump meeting in Singapore. Neocons and the Pentagon chimed in - Peter M. (ed.)

(1) The Economist (=Rothschild) condemns Kim-Trump deal, says 'Kim Jong Won'

(2) The Economist: Kim did better, 'enough to make a Rodman (Hillary) cry'

(3) The Economist on Facebook - Not one good word about FIRST meeting between NK & USA

(4) Neocon Susan Rice: Kim Jong Un beat Trump at summit

(5) Trump says he requested end to 'war games' in Korea

(6) Trump rattles Pentagon by calling off Korea war games


(1) The Economist (=Rothschild) condemns Kim-Trump deal, says 'Kim Jong Won'

Kim Jong Won

Dealing with North Korea, Trump puts showmanship first

The summit was a triumph of showbiz over substance—and Mr Trump made big concessions for no return

Jun 16th 2018

AS A television spectacle, it was irresistible. The star of “The Apprentice” striding commandingly along the red carpet, reaching out his hand, ready to strike the deal of a lifetime. And grasping it, Kim Jong Un, the leader of the world’s most repressive dictatorship, his Mao suit, hairstyle and grievances imported directly from the 1950s, who just nine months before had promised to “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”. In the end, fire did not prove necessary: a suspension of weapons-testing and an invitation to a summit was all it took. President Donald Trump said it was an “honour” to meet Mr Kim, who duly promised “complete denuclearisation” in exchange for security guarantees. It was, Mr Trump said at a press conference, “a very great moment in the history of the world”.

To the extent history is playing any part in all this, it is in its tendency to repeat itself. North Korea has promised disarmament again and again over the past 30 years, only to renege each time after pocketing generous inducements. If the flimsy agreement Messrs Trump and Kim signed in Singapore is to turn out differently, as Mr Trump insists it will, America must be clear-eyed and exacting in the detailed nuclear regime that it negotiates with the North. Alas, so far Mr Trump seems more eager to play the talks for ratings—threatening not only a meaningful deal, but also America’s position in Asia.

One unquestionably good thing did come out of this week’s summit. Talking is much better than the belligerent exchange that went before it (see Briefing). War appears to be off the table, and for that the world can be grateful.

The other good thing is that glimmer of hope. You can never completely dismiss the idea that Mr Kim does mean to change direction. Still in his 30s (like much about him and his country, his exact age is a mystery), he may be daunted by the bleak prospect of a lifetime of nuclear brinkmanship. For his regime to endure, he needs enough wealth to buy conventional weapons and pacify the urban middle class, which in recent years has begun to enjoy some meagre luxuries. He may also be uncomfortable about his country’s reliance on China for everything from oil and remittances to the plane that flew him to Singapore. If Mr Kim sees nuclear weapons partly as bargaining chips, his investment in warheads and the missiles needed to carry them as far as the United States makes this his moment of maximum leverage. Now would be the time to talk.

Mr Trump was right to test this possibility. The potential prize includes not just the step back from war talk, but the removal of a persistent threat to Asia and, lately, the United States. Also, given China’s disputes with America over trade and security, North Korea could become a template for how the two superpowers can work together, to everyone’s benefit.

Measured by such aspirations, however, Singapore was a disappointment. Mr Trump boasts of the tremendous achievement of simply being there; in reality the North wanted talks all along. For Mr Kim, the offer of a meeting as equals with the sitting president of the United States—external validation of his godlike status at home—was an unexpected and long-desired windfall. He could have used the summit as a signal that he means to overturn the North’s record of deceit. But, despite supposedly intense pre-Singapore negotiations, this week’s agreement contains no binding North Korean commitments.

“Complete denuclearisation” sounds good, but the North did not set out a timetable. It may, as in the past, take the term to refer to the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea, or even to when America itself disarms, as it is in theory bound to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—which, incidentally, the North has abandoned. Nor did the agreement mention verification. Mr Trump’s team insists this will be intrusive, but Mr Kim’s “proof” of destroying test sites has so far involved letting a few journalists watch at a safe distance. Verification must involve inspectors with the right to visit any of North Korea’s hundreds of facilities, civilian and military, at short notice. Mr Kim’s willingness to accept such a regime is the real test of whether the agreement is serious.

Worryingly, Mr Trump seems determined to be the deal’s salesman. At the press conference, as he gushed about Mr Kim’s qualities, he announced that America was unwisely cancelling military exercises with South Korea while talks with the North were under way. As the South’s partly conscript army needs frequent training to remain battle-ready, that was a big concession for which he appears to have received nothing. Mr Trump says that sanctions on the North will remain until the process of disarmament is irreversible. He also acknowledges that China is already enforcing the sanctions less diligently (it is also arguing for further loosening)—“but that’s OK”. Mr Kim must know that Mr Trump will struggle to get other countries to tighten the screws on the North again. Mr Trump has a lot riding on the North Korean deal, but just as he abandoned a good Iranian nuclear agreement, so must he be willing to abandon a bad North Korean one, or Mr Kim will string him along. That is the test of Mr Trump’s seriousness.

Put the Nobel on hold

America’s Asian allies are rightly worried that Mr Trump will sacrifice their security for the sake of a dead-end deal. He failed to warn South Korea and Japan that he was cancelling the military exercises (using a North Korean phrase, he called them “provocative” war games). He talked about America’s Asian commitments as an expensive burden in the same breath as saying that he wanted to pull his troops home. He raised the fairness of trade, as if security was contingent. Dealing with North Korea is a chance for Mr Trump to strengthen the NPT and pax Americana. He looks more likely to weaken both, risking regional arms races and even war.

Mr Kim has gone from pariah to statesman in six months. His regime’s abhorrent treatment of its own people is largely forgotten. His repeated violations of treaties and UN Security Council resolutions have been partly forgiven. Striking any sort of deal with such a figure is unpleasant. Striking a bad one would be a moral and diplomatic disaster.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline "Kim Jong Won"

(2) The Economist: Kim did better, 'enough to make a Rodman (Hillary) cry'

Enough to make a Rodman cry

{ie. Hillary Rodman Clinton}

Kim Jong Un did better than Donald Trump at the Singapore summit

“THINK of it”, the president enjoined reporters, “from a real-estate perspective.” When presented with images of North Korean artillery firing fusillade after fusillade into the sea, he said at his somewhat surreal post-summit press conference, he had seen a place that would “make a great condo. You…could have the best hotels in the world right there.” Trump Towers, Wonsan—a North Korean city that passes as a resort—suddenly seemed a tantalising possibility, perhaps with the North Korean Open being played on an adjacent links. As his supporters have noted, President Donald Trump brings a unique viewpoint to foreign policy.

It was Mr Trump’s background as a reality TV performer, though, rather than his property-development chops, that set the tone for his summit meeting with Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, in Singapore on June 12th. With 2,500 reporters attending, the summit was quite the TV spectacular. It even had a tearful CNN appearance by one of Mr Trump’s “Apprentice” participants, Dennis Rodman, a former basketball player who counts himself a friend to both leaders. There was a bizarre “trailer” showing the sunlit uplands of North Korea’s peaceful future as a coming attraction. At one point Mr Kim said to Mr Trump that it would seem to many like something out of “a fantasy”.

Not unaccustomed to living in a fantasy, Mr Kim took to this limelight in a very effective way. He made use of his time on the stage with both domestic North Korean and international audiences very much in mind. Mr Kim runs a mafia state with the most brutal secret policemen and the ugliest human-rights record on Earth. An estimated 120,000 North Koreans, in some cases whole families, rot in labour camps. Countless children are malnourished and mentally stunted. Since he came to power in 2011, Mr Kim has cracked down savagely on those trying to escape to China. He has executed an uncle and assassinated a half-brother (in whose favoured Singapore hotel, the St Regis, Mr Kim stayed the night before the summit).

When “poison pen” is not a metaphor

Mr Kim ought to be at The Hague. Yet in Singapore, the dictator, who also has ten UN Security Council resolutions arrayed against him, was the toast of the town as he waved at the crowds down by the Marina Bay casino and posed for a selfie with the Singaporean foreign minister. By coming across as warm, jovial and eminently reasonable, the capo has morphed into something respectable, even statesmanlike. There is talk of him starring at the UN General Assembly in New York in the autumn and Mr Trump says he will be welcome in the White House.

Chunks of all this, carefully edited, were beamed back to North Korea as evidence of the leader’s global stature; the first picture state media had ever shown of Mr Trump was of him shaking hands with Mr Kim, his partner in peace. Only occasionally was it possible to glimpse Mr Kim’s mafia-state paranoia in Singapore, as when a gloved aide inspected and wiped the pen with which he was to sign the joint document with Mr Trump.

The document itself was striking—and, considering the flurry of working-level talks led by experienced nuclear negotiators in the run-up to the summit, disappointing—in its lack both of detail and of North Korean concessions. The two sides committed themselves “to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula”—not, as South Korea would have liked, to a peace treaty. Mr Trump declared that he would provide “security guarantees” to North Korea, but did not say what they would be. In return Mr Kim gave his “firm and unwavering commitment” to complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but with no timetable, arrangements for verification or definitions of either “denuclearisation”—a term that in North Korea is typically taken to include the removal of all American forces from South Korea—or “complete”—which, when it comes to North Korean ideas about denuclearisation, can mean global.

As Victor Cha, who helped to run Asia policy for George W. Bush, noted, the agreement is less specific than previous North Korean pledges to curb its weapons programme, such as the one he worked on in 2005. Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor of the Asahi Shimbun in Japan, and a leading voice on Korea policy, was more directly critical: “If Hillary Clinton were president of the United States and had come up with yesterday’s agreement, Donald Trump would have rightly attacked her for a ‘fake’ denuclearisation...The word ‘denuclearisation’, [as used in the agreed text] is so does not mean anything.”

A more charitable reading would see the agreement as a broad outline for further lower-level meetings to flesh out “at the earliest possible date”; Mr Trump has charged his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, with the task. Alternatively, it could be seen as the minimal possible substance required for the surrounding spectacle and its self-serving claims of a historic peace deal to be sustained by both parties. It may in time deliver tangible results. But there is no evidence that Mr Kim sees denuclearisation as meaning that he should dismantle the nuclear arsenal he, his father and his grandfather put so much effort into creating and the industrial complex which supports it. In practice he seems to be offering no testing for the time being and some access to sites the programme might be abandoning anyway. As Mr Trump has said that he wants the nuclear weapons gone, and that the Singapore agreement will make that happen, he will either have to show progress towards that end, blithely lie about the end having already been achieved despite evidence to the contrary, or change his mind and get tough—which would presumably mean bellicose—again. A star is born

For the moment, though, tough is a thing of the past. At the post-summit press conference Mr Trump astonished many viewers by saying that the military exercises America regularly runs with South Korea were “very provocative”—a term favoured by China and North Korea—and “inappropriate” while negotiations were in progress: “We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money.”

That was a big unilateral concession. It alarmed South Korea and Japan, neither of which was warned of the move in advance; even some Republican politicians, including Ed Royce, chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, betrayed a certain unease. The American army command in the South declared that it would continue as before until otherwise instructed. The exercises have real practical value in training South Korea’s partly conscript army. They are also a potent symbol of America’s commitment to the security of its allies. “Without those comments, he could have sold the summit as a political success,” says Janka Oertel, an expert in East Asian security at the German Marshall Fund. “But alienating his allies in that way could do serious harm. It is also a massive gift to China.”

With enemies like this

Indeed, China lost no time in pointing out that it was the first to propose a “freeze for freeze” deal—no military exercises, no nuclear tests. Previous American administrations refused this gambit because it equated legal and legitimate operations by allies with an illicit weapons programme condemned by the UN. They were also well aware that Beijing was self-interestedly seeking to see a big chunk of America’s presence in Asia negotiated away. Now an American president who sees alliances as a costly burden, rather than as a source of strength, has given it what it wanted, at least for a while. The outcome of the summit, said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, “is what China has been looking forward to and striving for all along.”

China’s satisfaction means that, as well as becoming a statesman and seeing fewer military exercises on his doorstep, Mr Kim may also find the sanctions against his regime eased. Mr Trump, in his press conference, promised that the UN-mandated sanctions regime against North Korea would remain in place until it took material steps towards dismantling its nukes. Mr Geng, though, argued that UN rules allow sanctions to be loosened to “support” denuclearisation. And reports from the Chinese-North Korean border suggest that, whatever the official sanction regime, trade is already reviving—something Mr Trump acknowledged when he thanked “a very special person, President Xi of China, who has really closed up that border, maybe a little bit less so over the last couple of months, but that’s OK.” Absent massive provocation it is hard to imagine how America could reimpose a “maximum pressure” sanctions regime even if it wanted to—which Mr Trump does not.

South Korea, for its part, may devise workarounds that allow a degree of economic co-operation before any sanctions are lifted. Earlier this month the two countries reopened the liaison office in the Kaesong industrial complex, the site of their deepest economic co-operation. Straight after the summit, the South approved student exchanges between Seoul National University and Kim Il Sung University, the North’s flagship institution.

As that move shows, the South Korean response has been positive. The office of Moon Jae-in, the president, hailed the summit as a “historic event that has helped break down the last remaining cold war legacy on Earth” and provided copious pictures of Mr Moon beaming down at television footage that showed Mr Kim and Mr Trump shaking hands. The fact that the summit took place at all is a win for Mr Moon, who has made the peace process on the Korean peninsula a central issue of his presidency. That does not mean that the cancellation of the military exercises was met with equanimity. A later statement from the president’s office said that Mr Trump’s press-conference remarks required a “clearer understanding”. When Mr Pompeo met with South Korean and Japanese officials in Seoul on June 14th to share details of the summit and discuss the next steps, he had some explaining to do.

The conservative opposition is more strident on the subject: Hong Jun-pyo, the chairman of Liberty Korea, the main opposition party, said that “South Korea’s security is now just hanging off a cliff.” But the president and the peace process are both popular. Having lived within range of the North’s artillery for decades, South Koreans are less concerned by the presence or absence of nuclear weapons than by the threat of an actual war, which seemed more possible late last year than it had for some time. Mr Moon’s Minjoo Party had huge success in local elections on June 13th; Mr Hong’s days may be numbered.

Mr Kim will welcome sanctions relief and money from South Korea. He tolerates significantly more commerce than his predecessors did. Today’s sanctions, applied at full force, threaten the modest boom he has presided over since taking power, and thus risk angering the elites who have benefited from it. The promise of more development now that the push for nuclear weapons has paid off is an attractive narrative for the North Korean public. On the day of the summit Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official party newspaper, splashed on a night-time jaunt Mr Kim took around Singapore, admiring the glittering skyline and saying he had learnt much about economic development in the city state.

The long con

This does not mean that Mr Kim is interested in the sort of full-on market economy which serious foreign investment would require. Nor are North Korea’s proto-capitalist elites. A proper opening of the country would surely lead to their being outcompeted by South Korean or Chinese companies. But a glitzier tyranny has its appeals, especially if a little economic growth improves morale.

For this to work, Mr Kim needs time, and that is what he can be expected to play for in the coming negotiations. Mr Pompeo has talked of “major disarmament” within two-and-a-half years. A former CIA director, he has no illusions about North Korean tactics. But there would be limits to how quickly things could go even if North Korea acted in good faith. Siegfried Hecker, who used to run America’s bomb-design lab at Los Alamos, and colleagues at Stanford University estimated last month that, even if the North were serious about it, the process could take more than a decade.

With missiles and a stockpile of bombs, as well as a uranium-enrichment programme, to deal with, the effort would have to be far more painstaking than the process Barack Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, put in place for the Iran deal. It would require a stringent, and thus hard-to-negotiate, verification regime to be in operation from the beginning; ad hoc inspections of particular sites are not remotely enough. It would need the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency and also, possibly, the European powers that Mr Trump alienated by tearing up that hard-won Iran deal. Bye bye bombers

Time plays to Mr Kim’s advantage. He intends to remain in power for decades. Mr Trump might be voted out in 2020. Mr Trump may return to Washington, DC, and reconsider his approach to Mr Kim; some in the administration seem to be distancing themselves from his announcement about “war games”. But Mr Kim is well-placed to string America along and play for time, offering concessions slowly, insincerely, or both.

That said, he has lost one of his old cards. He cannot play the world statesman and still rely on being able to wrong-foot adversaries with all-out weirdness; normalisation has some costs. But America has lost a card, too. If it finds it wants to reinforce sanctions, it will be hard to get Chinese support back. “If North Korea does not make another nuclear test or launch missiles again, I don’t think China will impose new sanctions,” says Li Nan, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a think-tank.

Back in Washington, the summit scrambled the usual dividing lines between military hawks and the foreign-policy establishment. Striving to offer credit where some is due, veteran diplomats praised Mr Trump for abandoning his ??fire and fury” threats. One was Mr Cha, who might well have been Mr Trump’s ambassador to South Korea had he not made clear his horror at talk of pre-emptive military strikes on North Korea. “If the bar for success in this summit is war or peace,” he said, “it’s a pretty low bar. We got peace. So in that sense, we’re certainly in a better place than we were six months ago when there was a lot of talk about preventive military attacks and armed conflict.”

Meanwhile, some of the hardest-line, brook-no-compromise members of the Republican Party discovered a new fondness for foreign-policy realism—at least when it is practised by a president their voters back home adore. In 2015 Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas, organised a letter from 47 senators to the leaders of Iran saying that if the Iran deal was not backed by Congress it could be overturned once a new president took office. On June 12th a newly pragmatic Mr Cotton explained to Hugh Hewitt, a radio host, that ostracism remains his favoured approach to “two-bit rogue regimes [that] don’t have nuclear weapons, yet”. But now that North Korea can deliver nuclear warheads all the way to America, sitting down with its dictator is “not a pretty sight” but is a “necessary” part of Mr Trump’s job, the senator averred.

If Mr Trump stands firm on the cancellation of the joint exercises, though, opposition to a move that so clearly signals an American disentanglement from security in the region—justified by Mr Trump, as is so often the case, on the basis of excessive costs which allies ripping off America were unwilling to shoulder—will mount in Washington, and in Japan, too. The Japanese government’s immediate response to the Singapore summit was a certain relief; it had not been the disaster it might have been. The Japanese view is that it is too early to assess how the process of denuclearisation was advanced by the summit. And it takes comfort from the fact that, when it comes to Mr Trump’s scorn for American alliances in Asia, it is in a different position from South Korea. Japan is home to the American navy’s Seventh Fleet, to air-force units and to US Marines—all expeditionary forces based in Asia not just to defend Japan and Taiwan but also to project power and to act as a deterrent. Those are missions likely to be needed for years to come.

Mr Funabashi is much less sanguine: “So far as thinking in Japan goes, the biggest casualty of this summit is likely to be the credibility of the US as an ally...Trump now poses the biggest challenge to [prime minister Shinzo] Abe’s political survival.”

On this broader point, though, it is too soon for Japan to despair—or China to rejoice. Chinese military planners have long dreamed of pushing American forces as far from their shores as possible, ideally back to the “third island chain” (strategist speak for Hawaii). Now they face an American president who talks happily about pulling his troops out of at least part of Asia unbidden. But China has learned to watch what American presidents do, not what they say, says Mr Li. After all, Mr Trump campaigned on a promise to withdraw troops from bases all around the world. But after Pentagon bureaucrats and generals worked on him, “they are still there.”

They may be in place for some time to come. So may Mr Kim. As for Trump Towers, Wonsan, the world will have to wait and see.

This article appeared in the Briefing section of the print edition under the headline "Enough to make a Rodman cry"


(3) The Economist on Facebook - Not one good word about FIRST meeting between NK & USA

June 16th-22nd 2018

The Economist

The Singapore summit was a triumph of showbiz over substance—and Donald Trump made big concessions for no return. Our cover in Asia and America this week ==

Comment by Georgianna Parks: Not one good word about FIRST meeting between NK & USA

This is hogwash. Not one good word to say about the FIRST meeting between NK and the USA. Ha! But we were supposed to believe that Obama traveling to Cuba was this monumental occasion. I’m done with this magazine and sadly was once a huge fan.


(4) Neocon Susan Rice: Kim Jong Un beat Trump at summit

Susan Rice: Kim Jong Un beat Trump at summit

Susan Rice, national security adviser under President Obama, says North Korea's Kim Jong Un won the summit with President Donald Trump because Kim was able gain prestige and got Trump to end "war games" on the Korean peninsula while committing to less than previous North Korean leaders.Source: CNN

(5) Trump says he requested end to 'war games' in Korea

Trump says he requested end to 'war games' in talks with North Korea's Kim Jong Un

“Holding back the “war games” during the negotiations was my request because they are VERY EXPENSIVE and set a bad light during a good faith negotiation,” Trump said on Sunday morning.

by Saphora Smith / Jun.18.2018 / 12:16 AM ET / Updated 12:27 AM ET

President Donald Trump said on Sunday that it was his idea to put military exercises involving U.S. and South Korean forces on hold following talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

In a series of morning tweets, Trump also argued that he had not been given enough credit for the deal reached with Kim in Singapore, which he said was bringing peace to the world. He accused critics of saying that by meeting with Kim he had “given so much” to North Korea, “because that’s all they have to disparage!”

Trump added that the deal had been “praised and celebrated” all over Asia, but at home “people would rather see this historic deal fail than give Trump a win, even if it does save potentially millions & millions of lives!”

The president's revelation that he planned to put the "war games" on hold was part of the agreement brokered with the North Korean leader last week to work "toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

This appeared to blindside both the Pentagon and South Korea's military, and was criticized by some experts as giving away a huge concession for little in return.

"Under the circumstances that we're negotiating a very comprehensive complete deal, I think it's inappropriate to be having war games," Trump told reporters at a press conference following the unprecedented June 12 summit.

He also described the exercises as "very provocative" and said the move would "save us a tremendous amount of money."

But this is the first time he has claimed that the move was his idea.

“Holding back the “war games” during the negotiations was my request because they are VERY EXPENSIVE and set a bad light during a good faith negotiation,” Trump said on Sunday morning.

He also warned that he could re-instate the drills “immediately” if talks break down, but added that he hoped that would not happen.


 Funny how the Fake News, in a coordinated effort with each other, likes to say I gave sooo much to North Korea because I “met.” That’s because that’s all they have to disparage! We got so much for peace in the world, & more is being added in finals. Even got our hostages/remains!

Skeptics criticized the president for giving too much away for too little, all the while legitimizing and even praising one of the world's most brutal dictators.

Others said the summit was the promising, symbolic start of a long process, and preferable to last year's nadir that saw the two countries trade threats of nuclear war.

Earlier Sunday, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that South Korea and the U.S. are expected to announce the suspension of “large-scale” military drills this week, with the provision that they would restart if North Korea failed to keep its promise to denuclearize.

A senior South Korean military officer confirmed to NBC News that the suspension of military drills was “being discussed between the South Korean and U.S. authorities.”

The U.S. and its allies maintain the drills are purely defensive in nature. But Pyongyang saw things differently, labeling the drills as a "grave provocation" that threatened to escalate the region "to the brink of nuclear war."

The next round of the joint drills were due to be held in August.

The joint military exercises are separate from the regular military training between South Korea and the U.S. military, which Trump has said will continue.

Trump drew renewed criticism this week when he appeared to praise Kim in a series of public remarks.

In an interview with Fox News’ Brett Baier the president deflected a question about whether Kim was "a killer," instead calling him "a tough guy."

On Friday Trump held three wide-ranging back-to-back-to-back interviews with reporters in which he spouted off on an array of topics, including Kim.

"He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same," Trump said.

"We got along very well, we had a good chemistry. I don't know if that's supposed to be popular or politically correct to say. But we really did, we had good chemistry."

Asked about defending Kim's human rights record, Trump said: "You know why? Because I don't want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family."


(6) Trump rattles Pentagon by calling off Korea war games

BY ELLEN MITCHELL - 06/17/18 08:00 AM EDT  677

Trump rattles Pentagon with Korea war games decision

President Trump's decision this week to cancel large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea rattled Pentagon officials, who did not anticipate the news or have a strong role at the summit itself, according to defense experts.

The surprise declaration, which came after Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is an apparent concession to Pyongyang, which has claimed the drills are merely a pretext for a strike on the North.

After the announcement, news soon leaked of government officials scrambling aboard Air Force One to alert allied countries and partners of the change, with South Korea even left out of the loop.

Barry Pavel, a national security expert at the Atlantic Council think tank, highlighted the lack of defense officials on the trip, which he said was one indication the White House surprised the Pentagon.

If the decision had been planned, “you would have had defense officials there supporting the president,” said Pavel.

Instead, the Pentagon had only one representative at the summit, Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs and the Defense Department’s liaison with the State Department.

Pavel also noted that any mention of the military exercises was missing from the prepared document signed by Trump and Kim at the summit. The document only reaffirmed Pyongyang's commitment to denuclearization in exchange for unspecified security guarantees by the U.S.

“Obviously it was a surprise, otherwise it would be addressed in the agreed statement, one would expect,” Pavel said.

The Pentagon, though, has pushed back at the perception it was caught flat-footed, insisting Defense Secretary James Mattis was consulted and not surprised by the move.

“The secretary is in full alignment with the president to meet his goal which is denuclearization of the peninsula,” Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White told CNN.

A source close to top Pentagon leadership, though, said it’s likely only three or four top officials knew of the plan to suspend drills.

“It’s hard to say the whole Pentagon was surprised,” the source said. “The Pentagon rank and file, there are huge differences between what information is shared. People in the middle don’t know, people below them certainly don’t either.”

The Defense Department has also done little else to silence talk that Trump’s declaration was largely unexpected. There has been no public statement contradicting the speculation and no new guidance on the semi-annual military exercises, held roughly every March and August.

Defense secretaries typically are not in the room at presidential summits, “but Mattis also wasn’t there in spirit,” said Michael Green, an Asia-Pacific expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

There are also questions about Mattis's support for the policy and input.

Two weeks before the summit, Mattis had spoken at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security summit in Singapore, where he pledged to support Asian allies.

But after Trump’s curveball, “I haven’t seen Secretary Mattis gone out and try to reassure anyone,” Green said.

The Pentagon did release statements Thursday that said Mattis spoke with his South Korean counterpart on "their mutual support to ongoing diplomatic efforts, to include how we are working together to fulfill the President's guidance on U.S.-ROK combined military exercises," according to White.

In a separate phone call the same day, Mattis also spoke with Japan's defense minister to reaffirm "its ironclad defense commitments to Japan and its determination to maintain the readiness of its forces in the region," White said in a statement.

The public silence is uncanny, Green said, as Mattis has previously tamped down controversial statements from Trump.

“I haven’t seen that this time,” Green told The Hill.

Pavel said he didn't think Mattis had lost influence compared to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or national security adviser John Bolton, who largely led talks at the summit.

“I wouldn’t take it that far,” he said. “I think Mattis still has quite a bit of influence with the president, but you can’t stop the president from making the comments he does.”

The source close to Pentagon leadership echoed the sentiment and pushed back on any idea that Mattis was out of the loop.

“Mattis might not think it’s a good idea to stop the exercises, but there’s not a lot of defense things that he’s not read in on. I think he’s well respected within the Cabinet,” the source said.

Lawmakers also have split opinions on whether the Pentagon had input into the decision to suspend Korean military exercises.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who met with Mattis while in Singapore earlier this month, said he does “not detect from [Mattis] or other leadership in the Pentagon a concern that they’ve been left out” of the plan.

“As Secretary Mattis loves to talk about, his military efforts are in support of the diplomatic approaches. And also a strong military makes diplomacy work better,” Thornberry told reporters this week.

Rep. Rueben Gallego (D-Ariz.), however, said he’s heard from people at the Pentagon “that they were caught off guard, which is bonkers.”

Gallego also said he was concerned by the lack of consultation with South Korean allies.

“It’s a show of bad faith when you do these kinds of moves,” he said.

The fallout could also affect U.S. ties with other allies beyond South Korea.

Trump's move has also led some to worry U.S. military exercises could be suspended in Europe as Russian aggression looms.

“Allies are very concerned and it’s not just South Korea,” Pavel said.

“There’s a NATO summit coming up in four weeks, so I know for a fact — because I’ve had a senior European defense official ask me the question ... ‘how worried should we be about the same issue, the same measure being taken in Europe?’ ”

Peter Myers