By Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea scrapped after President Donald Trump griped about “tremendously expensive” military drills would have cost around $14 million, U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday.
The Pentagon announced last month that it was indefinitely suspending the Freedom Guardian military exercise in support of the Singapore summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump repeatedly touted the cost savings that would come with his decision to stop “the war games,” in a surprise concession to Kim at the June 12 summit to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament.
“We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith – which both sides are!” Trump said on Twitter last month.
The officials, speaking on Friday the condition of anonymity, did not provide details on the cost breakdown or the specifics of what was included. The Pentagon has not divulged the total cost of the multiple drills staged each year by the U.S. and South Korean armed forces.
Calculating the cost of military exercises is a complicated process, often requiring data from different branches of the military and spread over several budgets over different years.
Last year, 17,500 American troops and more than 50,000 South Korean troops joined the Freedom Guardian drills, though the exercise is mostly focused on computerized simulations rather than field exercises.
Forces from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Britain also participated.
The $14 million price tag compares with a recent contract awarded to Boeing Co <BA.N> for nearly $24 million for two refrigerators to store food aboard Air Force One, the presidential plane. The contract has since been canceled due to possible delivery of an updated Air Force One aircraft.
The U.S. military has a budget of nearly $700 billion this year.
Officials argue that scrapping exercises does not actually save large amounts of money because troops who would have been involved in them still require training and certification, which cost money.
Trump called joint exercises expensive and “provocative” – echoing a North Korean criticism that the United States had long rejected
U.S. officials have long insisted military exercises with partners are important for readiness and reassuring allies. Trump’s announcement baffled allies, military officials and lawmakers from his own Republican Party.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)