In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) transits the East Sea on March 8, 2016 during Exercise Ssang Yong 2016.
Photo by MCSN Craig Z. Rodarte/U.S. Navy/Getty

Trump echoes North Korean rhetoric on military exercises

The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/12/18, 12:48 AM ET

U.S. weighs North Korea demands with regional security, treaties

Admiral James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of NATO, talks with Rachel Maddow about what security concessions Kim Jong Un might ask for from Donald Trump, and how U.S. security obligations and treaties limit how much Trump can give away.
Perhaps the most notable substantive development from Donald Trump’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un was the American president’s latest concession: Trump announced that he’s curtailing scheduled military exercises with our South Korean allies.

Consider, for example, what the Republican told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. From the network’s transcript:

“[W]e’re not gonna play the war games. You know, I wanted to stop the war games, I thought they were very provocative. But I also think they’re very expensive. We’re running the country properly, I think they’re very, very expensive. To do it, we have to fly planes in from Guam – that’s six and a half hours away. Big bombers and everything else, I said, ‘Who’s paying for this?’ I mean, who pays, in order to practice.

“So one of the things that I suggested and I wanna do is we’re going to stop the war games, unless for some reason, we’re unable to go further.”

Similarly, at his press conference, Trump three times called the military exercises “very provocative,” adding, “I think it’s inappropriate to be having war games.” The president went on to say “like to be able to bring” U.S. troops home from South Korea.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but if North Korean officials had literally written the talking points for the White House, they probably would’ve sounded similar to this. Kim Jong-un is the one who condemns joint U.S./South Korea military exercises as “provocative” and “inappropriate.”

And now the sitting American president is saying the same thing, effectively endorsing North Korean propaganda – handing Kim another concession in exchange for very little.

Rachel spoke to retired four-star Navy Admiral James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO, about the developments last night, and he said something that stood out for me.

“We ought to remember,” Stavridis explained, “our troops are there, not as an act of goodwill toward South Korea, they’re there to enhance U.S. influence in the region, to ensure that we keep those sea-lanes of communication open, that our trade can flow freely, that we have a voice in the events there…. They’re not there as an act of goodwill; they’re there to accomplish U.S. national security objectives.”

Someone really ought to let the president know.

Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, North Korea and South Korea

Trump echoes North Korean rhetoric on military exercises