Following the summit, Trump made the surprise announcement that he was ending what he called “war games” with South Korea because they were “provocative” and “very expensive.”
In line with Trump’s pledge, the Pentagon later announced it was suspending planning for the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise that was slated to begin in August.
“The estimated cost of the exercise was to be approximately $14 million,” Major Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokesperson, said on Friday.
In the wake of his pledge to end the annual military exercises with South Korea, Trump continued to cite their high costs as a reason for “holding back the ‘war games.’”
“We stopped playing those ‘war games’ that cost us a fortune,” Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview directly following his summit in Singapore last month. “You know, we’re spending a fortune, every couple of months we’re doing war games with South Korea, and I said, ‘What’s this costing?’ We’re flying planes in from Guam, we’re bombing empty mountains for practice. I said, ‘I want to stop that and I will stop that, and I think it’s very provocative.’”
While the $14 million associated with the exercise is a significant sum, it is a tiny fraction of the Pentagon’s annual $700 billion budget (.002 percent).
Until now Pentagon officials had been unable to provide a cost estimate for the exercises noting that its funding came from various military service budgets.
“Major joint exercises involving forces traveling around the globe to exercise with our allies and partners over a period of weeks or even months can cost up to $20 million or more depending on the exercise,” Gleason explained.
Mainly a computer simulation exercise, Ulchi Freedom Guardian still involves thousands of American troops. Last year’s version of the exercise involved 17,500 American troops, most of them already based in South Korea.