19 Jun 2018 14:57

U.S. decision to cancel drills with S. Korea shouldn't be overestimated - Russian expert

MOSCOW. June 19 (Interfax) - The cancellation of major U.S.-South Korean military exercises is Washington's largest possible concession following negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and is more of an element of preparations for the midterm elections to Congress, Gleb Ivashentsov, a member of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and former Russian ambassador to South Korea (2005-2009), told Interfax on Tuesday.

"This step was initiated in large part by the South Korean political leadership and was eventually supported by the Americans. On the one hand, this can be seen as a direct effect of the efficiency of the so-called double freeze formula envisioning that the United States and South Korea do not conduct large-scale exercises in exchange for the suspension of the nuclear missile program by Pyongyang," Ivashentsov said.

At the same time, it would be unreasonable to overestimate the U.S.' decision, not to mention expect that this step could help resume the multilateral negotiating format for settling the situation in the Korean Peninsula, he said.

"I do not think the matter is about a six-party format now. I believe this process has been suspended. My personal opinion, which coincides with judgements by multiple members of the U.S. expert community, is that Trump needed the meeting with Kim Jong Un for PR purposes, in view of the election to Congress in October. Trump wanted to show that he was correcting mistakes committed by [U.S. President Barack] Obama, who was unable to rein the DPRK in. This is an efficient argument for the voters supporting the Republican Party," he said.

At the same time, the cancellation of the August drills is the maximum concession to Pyongyang that Washington could afford, Ivashentsov said. "The Americans are unlikely to go further than this step. Following the elections to Congress, the situation may turn around. In this light, it would be utterly naive to overestimate this decision by the U.S.," he said.

It had been reported earlier that the Pentagon had confirmed the suspension of the U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises Ulchi-Freedom Guardian planned originally for August.