Facing diplomatic fallout from a previous aerial exercise near North Korea, the Trump Administration was all set to do it again this past week, planning a three-nation exercise with US B-52 bombers escorted by South Korean and Japanese planes.
Apparently the Pentagon wasn’t able to put 2 and 2 together on this, and it took intervention from South Korea, who pointed out this was a really bad time for such an exercise, to convince President Trump to cancel it.
The Trump-Kim summit is in just three weeks, and North Korea was already questioning whether the US was in the right frame of mind to talk after the last war games. South Korea said the exercise would generate too much tension ahead of the talks.
US officials say they accepted South Korea’s call because they want to keep up a cooperative relationship with South Korea during the diplomatic process. They added that the B-52 bombers had a routine training mission near Okinawa in recent days instead.
South Korea is working to try to prepare the US to participate in a summit with Kim, after their own summit went quite well. Their interest in seeing this new summit go well is nothing surprising.
What is surprising is that, having hyped up the summit themselves, the Trump Administration has such little self-awareness about the sort of behavior that could threaten it happening. South Korea appears to have to keep an eye on the US and make sure to keep them from doing anything foolish before June 12.