INTERNATIONAL

North Korea still a threat: Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump declared on Friday that North Korea still poses an “extraordinary threat” to the United States.

In an executive order, he extended for one year the so-called “national emergency” with respect to the nuclear-armed nation, re-authorising economic restrictions against it. While expected, the declaration comes just nine days after Mr. Trump tweeted, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

Proliferation risk

The order appears to undermine the President’s claim.

It states that “the existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material” and the actions and policies of the North Korean government “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

The national emergency has been in place since 2008 and is a sign of the enduring tensions between the U.S. and North Korea that spiked last year as the North moved closed to perfecting a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach American soil, but ebbed with the June 12 summit where Kim agreed to “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula.

The two sides, however, still have to negotiate the terms under which the North would give up its nukes and win relief from sanctions a goal that has eluded U.S. administrations for a quarter-century.

Mr. Trump claimed at a Cabinet meeting Thursday that denuclearisation had already begun, although Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters a day earlier that he wasn’t aware that North Korea had taken any steps yet toward denuclearisation, and that detailed negotiations have not yet begun.

Indefinite suspension

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Friday evening that it has “indefinitely suspended” a major military exercise with South Korea, known as Freedom Guard and scheduled for August, as well as two Korean Marine exchange training exercises.

Officials had announced on Monday that planning for Freedom Guard had been suspended in line with Mr. Trump’s decision to halt what he called U.S. “war games” in South Korea.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Dana W. White, said further decisions about military exercises in South Korea “in support of diplomatic negotiations” led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will depend on North Korea “continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith”.

Regarding suspension of the exercises, South Korea’s Defence Ministry said, “South Korea and the U.S. decided to delay two of KMEP (drills) indefinitely, which was going to take place within the next three months.

“This is a part of follow-up measures after the North Korea-U.S. summit and South Korea-North Korea summit. There could be additional measures should North Korea follow suit with productive cooperation.”

Last year, 17,500 American troops and more than 50,000 South Korean troops joined the Freedom Guardian drills, although the exercise is mostly focused on computerized simulations rather than field exercises.

Also, on Saturday, the U.S. military began moving caskets to North Korea for the recovery of some remains, the U.N. Command in South Korea said in a statement.