(CNSNews.com) – North Korean state media said Wednesday that during his summit with President Trump, Kim Jong Un had described as urgent the need to make bold decisions on “halting irritating and hostile military actions against each other.”
“Kim Jong Un said in order to achieve peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and realize its denuclearization, the two countries should commit themselves to refraining from antagonizing with [sic] each other,” said the official news agency KCNA in the regime’s first account on Tuesday’s meetings in Singapore.
It said Trump had voiced understanding when Kim raised the “irritating and hostile military actions,” and had then “expressed his intention to halt the U.S.-south Korea joint military exercises, which the DPRK side regards as provocation, over a period of good-will dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S.”
Trump had further agreed to offer “security guarantees,” it said, and suggested that he also undertook to lift sanctions as negotiations aimed at improving the relationship advance.
(Trump told VOA immediately after the summit: “The sanctions will remain on until we really start dismantling, or dismantle, the nuclear weapons.”)
KCNA said Kim had told Trump that “if” the U.S. takes genuine measures to build trust, “the DPRK, too, can continue to take additional good-will measures of next stage commensurate with them.”
KCNA said Kim and Trump agreed it was important to abide by “the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
It said each had extended, and accepted, the other’s invitation to visit.
The KCNA report on the summit provided little of the colorful language that often characterizes North Korean state-controlled media.
It did observe, however, that Singapore “was awash with thousands of domestic and foreign journalists and a large crowd of masses to see this day's moment which will remain long in history.”
The report called the talk between Trump and the North Korean dictator “familiar” and “candid,” and described the post-luncheon stroll in the hotel grounds as “a walk, deepening friendly feelings.”
Separately, KCNA ran in full the document signed by Trump and Kim in Singapore.
The version it disseminated was identical in wording to the one released by the White House, except that each time the two leaders or two countries were named together, they were switched so that Kim’s name appeared before Trump’s and the DPRK came before the U.S.
Arguably the biggest surprise to come out of Tuesday’s talks was Trump’s agreement to suspend joint military exercises with the South Koreans, meeting a longstanding demand of the regime.
At his post-summit press conference, the president announced that the U.S. will stop “war games” on the peninsula, “unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should.”
He called the maneuvers “tremendously expensive” and “provocative.”
“Under the circumstances that we are negotiating a very comprehensive, complete [denuclearization] deal, I think it’s inappropriate to be having war games,” Trump said.
“Number one, we save money – a lot. Number two, it really is something they very much appreciated.”
Amid criticism from liberal media outlets, Trump tweeted on Wednesday: "We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith - which both sides are!"
But the unexpected announcement drew criticism from some quarters.
“Military exercises are not ‘inappropriate,’” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel who said he has served on active duty in the Pacific Command region. “They are crucial for deterrence & readiness.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was quoted as expressing concern.
“I don’t think that’s wise because we have done these exercises for years,” she said. “I would just ask the president, why do we need to suspend them? They are legal.”
A brief Pentagon statement on the summit did not mention the joint exercise issue, but said the Department of Defense supports the ongoing diplomacy, adding, “Our alliances remain ironclad, and ensure peace and stability in the region.”
Exactly what the administration has in mind remains to be seen. According to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), when Vice President Mike Pence briefed Republican senators on the summit Tuesday, he told them that “readiness training and training exchanges” with South Korea will continue, but “war games will not.”
The Pentagon maintains the exercises are “defensive in nature.” The regime in Pyongyang, which for decades has demanded a halt to the drills, claims they amount to invasion practice.
Major joint exercises on the peninsula include, in the spring, Foal Eagle (tactical level exercises for field units) and the near-simultaneous Key Resolve (a command post staff training exercise.)
In the late summer or fall, the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian focuses on command post operations and simulations, rather than on field activities.
Meanwhile, Max Thunder is a large-scale flying exercise designed to enhance interoperability between U.S. and South Korean forces.
Invincible Spirit, a large joint naval exercise, has been held after major North Korean provocations – after the 2010 sinking of a South Korean navy ship and the deaths of 46 sailors, and in 2016 after North Korea carried out its fifth nuclear test.
Trump’s proposal to suspend military exercises to facilitate nuclear negotiations is not unprecedented.
In the 1990s, the Clinton administration shelved a large, long-running exercise known as Team Spirit as it pursued the ill-fated 1994 Agreed Framework.
Team Spirit, which was especially loathed by North Korea, was later replaced by a smaller precursor to Key Resolve.