Confusion surrounds the status of military exercises between the US and South Korea after Donald Trump used them as a bargaining chip during his summit with Kim Jong-un.
President Trump said the US would no longer participate in the drills following the historic meeting over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme - with Pyongyang regarding them as a provocation.
The president announced the abrupt change after both leaders signed an ambiguous document calling for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Before Mr Trump returned to Washington, however, his administration was flooded with questions asking for more specifics behind the move.
According to Senator Cory Gardner, Vice President Mike Pence told a Senate GOP luncheon on Tuesday that “exercises will continue with South Korea, look forward to further calm and clarification from the president when he gets here.”
However, Mr Pence’s press secretary later told The Daily Beast that claims the vice president said exercises would continue are “false.”
The differing statements could perhaps just be a matter of wording: while the US may be planning to halt many of its military exercises near North Korea, several training procedures and operations may continue, including the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise planned for later in the year. Mr Pence went on to stress that “war games” between both nations would soon come to an end, echoing the president’s comments about the military exercises over the weekend.
“Under the circumstances that we're negotiating a very comprehensive complete deal I think it's inappropriate to have war games,” Mr Trump said over the weekend. “It is something that [North Korea] very much appreciated.”
Regardless, the Pentagon told media outlets it had not received any communication from the White House ordering a change in its military procedures, and would “continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance from the Department of Defense.”
“The Department of Defense continues to work with the White House, the interagency, and our allies and partners on the way forward,” Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, told the New York Times. ”We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”