Citing a Chinese diplomatic source, Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported that Xi proposed the idea to Kim during their summit in Dalian, China, from May 7-8. It was the second time that the two countries’ leaders had met since Kim took power in 2011.
According to the newspaper, Xi urged North Korea to demand the suspension of the joint exercises in exchange for freeing three US citizens detained in North Korea. The three were released on May 10, days after the Xi-Kim summit.
China has long demanded that the US and South Korea halt annual military exercises in return for North Korea’s suspension of missile and nuclear tests. After declaring a moratorium on the tests, Kim dismantled the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in May.
The media report runs counter to Trump’s claim that he had first proposed suspending the joint military exercise when he sat down with the North Korean leader Kim in Singapore on June 12.
After arriving in Washington from Singapore, Trump told reporters that his decision to stop the South Korea-US joint military exercises was his idea, not a response to Kim‘s request.
However, North Korea offered a different account of the discussion. A day after the June 12 summit, Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that the Trump “accepted” the North Korean leader’s request for suspending the joint exercises.
Trump’s announcement of ending the joint military exercises took South Korea by surprise, prompting the government to figure out what Trump meant when he pledged to end “provocative” and expensive war games” with South Korea.
While the US and South Korean governments have yet to make an official announcement about the suspension of the war games, speculation is rampant that they will soon announce halting the upcoming Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise slated for August.
Involving tens of thousands of troops from the US and South Korea, the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise includes computer simulations carried out in a large bunker south of Seoul, intended to check the allies’ readiness to repel aggression by North Korea.