Jun 12, 2018, 2:51 PM ET

Mattis not surprised by Trump's call to end military exercises: Pentagon

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was not surprised by President Donald Trump’s call to end U.S. military exercises with South Korea and had been consulted beforehand, a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

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As reports emerged that the South Korean government was surprised by the announcement, questions were raised about whether Mattis and other U.S. policymakers had also been caught off guard.

“There were no surprises, they had spoken on all of these issues in advance,” Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokesperson, told ABC News when asked if Mattis knew about the president's announcement.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News's George Stephanopoulos and at a press briefing Trump announced that he was suspending military exercises conducted annually in South Korea by the U.S. military.

"I’m doing something that I’ve wanted to do from the beginning," Trump said in the interview with Stephanopoulos. "We stopped playing those war games that cost us a fortune."

"We’re spending a fortune, every couple of months we’re doing war games with South Korea," he added.

Asked if Mattis was surprised by those comments White said Mattis had been in constant conversations with the President.

“He was not surprised, he was consulted,“ she added. "They’d been having lots of conversations, but about all things and possibilities. “

“These are negotiations so the Secretary has been in full consultation with Secretary of State Pompeo, as well as the president,” said White.

“The Secretary’s in full alignment with the President to meet his goal which is denuclearization of the Peninsula.”

In a formal statement, White said the Pentagon welcomed "the positive news coming out of the summit and fully supports the ongoing, diplomatically-led efforts with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

"Our alliances remain ironclad, and ensure peace and stability in the region," she said in the statement. "The Presidential summit outcome is the first step along the path to the goal: complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a free and open Indo-Pacific."

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  • R C

    South Korea is an industrial giant and no longer needs the US to help defend it.

  • tatanka

    "I’m doing something that I’ve wanted to do from the beginning," Trump said in the interview with Stephanopoulos. "We stopped playing those war games that cost us a fortune."

    And besides, I like parades better.

  • (redacted)

    So we're gonna stop the exercises immediately while all we get from them is a letter saying they intend to de-nuclearize, eventually. No time table given. Not so much winning so far for Trump. We should have said we'll stop the exercises after they prove they have at least begun the process of de-nuclearzation.

  • 40words

    Trump winged the denuclearization talks. He planned a personal hard-sell pitch to Kim.

    In the ~30 minutes meeting with Kim, Trump spent a large portion of the time pitching a Trump resort in NK. Trump even had Kim watch a marketing video of what the development might look like. The film was produced by a firm in Los Angeles.

  • BannedSimplyForPosting234

    A lot of people posting here seem to know what Mattis knew. I wonder where they got their information from.

  • Stephen Bishop

    Mike Morrell: "Nothing accomplished that hasn't been done before"

  • Stephen Bishop

    Mattis was blindsided. Trump shoots from the hip.

  • Eagle1000

    To Mr Trump haters : Hate of any kind is Far Far evil at source,

    I don't admire Mr Trump but i don't hate him either-it does not cloud my judgement when i analyze things as right or wrong:albeit in relative or absolute terms as i perceive, But atleast i don't discard them at SOURCE as useless.

    Mr Trump has lied in the past many times and that has created a bias against him BUT we have to get over that and be open.

    Hatred is worse than a lie as it blinds you to anything good or right in a person or a situation and it consumes you to become next kathy griffin or even worst....You become much greater evil than what you had despised

    As i said earlier i don't know the True motives of Mr Trump but i am least worried about it as whatever is happening is happening for a greater good of all nations and perhaps for mankind itself so lets forget about Mr Trump or Kim or their past behavior and hope for the better.

  • Eagle1000

    General bias against Mr Trump is so great that everything he does is looked at with suspicion ,distrust and discredit.

    I think irrespective of whatever may have been the TRUE motive(s)-fame, publicity, care, duty, potential from investment in NK, personal profits..... this development between NK and US is a good thing and we have to stop badmouthing Mr trump on everything.

  • mclnVA

    If only Trump had just bought a Poche like every other old dude with tiny hands and a midlife crisis. President is just way too on the nose for him.

  • reality25

    "Kim Jong-un has accepted Donald Trump’s offer of a visit to the White House, North Korea’s state new agency has reported, with the regime leader extending a
    similar invitation to the US president."- The Guardian

    Well won't that be cozy. Maybe American media will be barred while NK and Russia media will be allowed in.

  • mclnVA

    I feel like David After Dentist. Is this real life?

  • Omar Majiet

    Mattis looks stressed out. Bags under the eyes and trying to figure out whats going on around him.

  • RG

    All the joint statement did was allow each country to express their intentions. As thin as it is, it is still a beginning. It could take a long time to denuclearize NK, even if Kim is serious. Will the USA really not lift some sanctions until denuclearization is complete? I think we will, otherwise the "good intentions" will fade.

  • mclnVA

    Should I be troubled that ABC thinks I need to keep seeing ads for how to get rid of belly fat?

  • atta boy

    Summit was a total waste of time & $$ millions wasted. Since no verification & no timetable for denuclearization was agreed it's a complete waste & complete failure.
    Of course the liar & his administration won't admit that. Kim won & the U.S. LOST AGAIN. Why didn't they make sure before going there that they would set a timetable for denuclearization ? Omg what a bunch of complete idiots.
    This makes trump look extremely weak because that's what he is, a weak child.

  • d big

    The comments that ABC censors has reached a new level, this will be removed guaranteed.

  • mclnVA

    President Chance.

    Ever see the Peter Sellers movie, “Being There?” Come to think of it, “The Mouse That Roared” fits too. Probably some George Plimtpon as well, a little “Paper Tiger” thrown in for good measure.

  • Mike D

    Next up for Trump "Free Tibet?"

  • Abogado

    I´m sure that Russia and the U.S. united could dominate the world ...
    There could be Towers in every city and no need for pesty elections ...

  • Mueller'sWordIsGospel

    When the GOP keeps the House in 2018, the Dems will have to fire Pelosi for delivering her awful speaking points on this.

    The Senate really isnt even in play at this point.