The Pentagon did not immediately comment on the report. However, the department has repeatedly indicated over the last two days that it was working toward fulfilling President Donald Trump’s direction that the exercises be cancelled.
“We are working to fulfill the President’s guidance. The Department of Defense is aligned and continues to work with the White House to ensure we provide options that meet the President’s intent,” Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said in a statement.
After meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in Singapore earlier this week, Trump called the military exercises “provocative” and said the U.S. would stop conducting them if North Korea carries out its pledge to denuclearize.
On Wednesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said he was not concerned by the president’s move to suspend major exercises with South Korea.
“I support our exercises and joint training,” he said. “But I also believe it’s important to give these negotiations a chance … I don’t see these as provocative, but obviously it is something that North Korea has complained about.”
Thornberry also said he expects lower-level military training to continue throughout the negotiations with North Korea, and for major joint exercises to resume if the White House feels that North Korean officials aren’t making enough progress.
The exercises play a role in maintaining the readiness of U.S. forces in the Pacific and are an important part of South Korean and U.S. efforts to conduct joint operations.
The next exercise, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, has been in the planning for months and involves more than 17,500 U.S. forces. It was set to begin in August.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.