Suspending war games with South Korea a 'mistake': McCain

He said that calling them provocative "undermines our security and alliances."

June 15, 2018, 12:32 AM

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain criticized President Donald Trump Thursday for halting U.S.-South Korea military exercises, calling it a "mistake" and warning that national security could be undermined.

"Making unnecessary and unreciprocated concessions is not in our interests — and it is a bad negotiating tactic," McCain said in a statement.

When he announced Tuesday that "we will be stopping the war games," Trump said he thinks the exercises are "very provocative," similar to language North Korea uses to denounce the joint military exercises.

"Parroting Chinese and North Korean propaganda by saying joint exercises are ‘provocative’ undermines our security and alliances," McCain said in his statement.

PHOTO: South Korean marines participate in landing operation referred to as Foal Eagle joint military exercise with U.S. troops Pohang seashore, on April 2, 2017, in Pohang, South Korea.
In this file photo, South Korean marines participate in landing operation referred to as Foal Eagle joint military exercise with U.S. troops Pohang seashore, April 2, 2017, in Pohang, South Korea.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images, FILE

While wishing Trump well in his negotiations with North Korea, McCain advised taking a skeptical approach toward the regime.

“I continue to hope that President Trump will be successful in his diplomatic efforts to achieve the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he said. "But we must not impose upon ourselves the burden of providing so-called ‘good faith’ concessions as the price for continued dialogue."

Both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said suspending the exercises is conditional upon North Korea moving toward nuclear disarmament.

"We will be stopping the war games ... unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should," Trump said after his meeting with Kim Jong Un Tuesday in Singapore.

U.S. Marines and U.S. Airmen work together during a simulated contamination control area in preparation of Vigilant Ace 17-1 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 17, 2016.
Lance Cpl. Jacob Farbo/U.S. Marine Corps

McCain had broader conditions, saying until North Korea takes concrete steps to address its weapons programs and human rights violations, "no concessions should be made, and the sanctions must continue.”

Pompeo made similar remarks himself the day before McCain released his statement, taking a jab at previous administrations. At a press conference alongside foreign ministers Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea and Taro Kono of Japan Wednesday, he vowed not to repeat "the mistakes of the past."

"They were providing economic and financial relief before the complete denuclearization had taken place," Pompeo said. "That is not going to happen."

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