Did Putin give Trump the idea to stop “war games” with South Korea?

Trump’s promise to stop “war games” with the South stunned everyone.
Trump’s promise to stop “war games” with the South stunned everyone.
Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
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Donald Trump left this week’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un having granted a huge last-minute concession: promising to stop what he called “war games” with South Korea.

The move reportedly blindsided both Seoul and US military officials.

Trump may have got that idea from an unusual source, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall):

Trump had an idea about how to counter the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, which he got after speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin: If the U.S. stopped joint military exercises with the South Koreans, it could help moderate Kim Jong Un’s behavior.

That discussion between Putin and Trump reportedly happened in summer 2017.  The pair have only met twice themselves, on the sidelines of diplomatic gatherings in Germany in July 2017 and in Vietnam that November.

Russia has encouraged de-escalation talks between the US and North Korea. Today, the Kremlin publicly congratulated itself for supporting the Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore, Reuters reported. “Putin was right,” a spokesman said. “The only possible path is one of direct dialogue.”

Using the military exercises as a massive negotiating chip in exchange for the North denuclearizing is a pretty orthodox policy proposal, but it stunned almost everybody that Trump seemed to be giving this away for free after his meeting.