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.
While the agreement fell short of outlining concrete measures that would lead to Kim giving up his nuclear weapons program — the stated long-term goal of U.S. negotiators — it gave Trump and Kim a piece of paper to point to as a sign of progress and a symbol of goodwill.
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.”