Trump wrote on Twitter that suspending US-South Korean wargames was entirely his own initiative because of how expensive and provocative the drills are during a time of such sensitive denuclearization and peace negotiations, rebuffing critics who claimed that he was selling out to North Korea while getting nothing of tangible significance in return. This move confirms the effectiveness of the joint Russian-Chinese proposal for a so-called “double freeze” that was suggested last year, whereby the US would do what Trump just did in suspending its war games with South Korea while North Korea would halt its missile and nuclear tests.
That, however, doesn’t mean that either Eurasian Great Power can expect to play much of a direct role in the ongoing denuclearization process, unless of course both parties – the US and North Korea – allow them to. This isn’t necessarily a negative development because Russia and China won’t be frozen out of the strategic and economic consequences of the successful implementation of any prospective US-North Korean denuclearization deal, with Moscow primed to play a leading role afterwards in spearheading parallel railway and pipeline projects across the peninsula that will strengthen Eurasia’s multipolar integration.
For this vision to sustainably succeed, however, an actual agreement must be struck between Washington and Pyongyang first, which is why it’s so important for these two legally warring adversaries to have enough trust in one another’s intentions that they can even get to that point. Suspending the provocative and costly war games with South Korea – per the joint Russian-Chinese proposal of a “double freeze”, even if it’s never openly admitted to – was a mature move by Trump that shows his sincerity in making progress with Chairman Kim, thereby stabilizing the Korean Peninsula in the process.
As to the claims that Trump was prematurely “surrendering” anything by indefinitely putting these exercises on hold, it should be reminded that the US has enough firepower in the region—including, presumably, nuclear-equipped subs and aircraft – that it could destroy North Korea the moment that a Continuation War broke out, with or without prior war gaming with the South Koreans. In fact, this point makes one wonder why the US even needs over 28,000 troops in the country anyhow when they’re more of a liability than an asset, therefore raising the prospect of their potential withdrawal as the ultimate sweetener for clinching a denuclearization deal with Kim.