The FINANCIAL -- Joint U.S.-South Korea military drills may be halted to boost talks on North Korea's denuclearization, South Korea's presidential office said on June 13, according to the country's Yonhap news agency.
After a landmark summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12, U.S. President Donald Trump told a news conference he would halt what he called "very provocative" and expensive military exercises the United States stages regularly with South Korea, according to RFE/RL.
Meanwhile, North Korea on June 13 said Trump has agreed to a "step-by-step" denuclearization process, with each country taking simultaneous, reciprocal steps to ease tensions and establish peace between the longtime enemies.
North Korea's first official statement early on June 13 after a historic summit between Trump and its leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore was delivered by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The statement appeared to go beyond the agreement signed a day earlier by the two leaders, saying that both leaders"recognized" during their meeting "that it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability, and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
According to RFE/RL, the statement said Kim also invited Trump to visit North Korea, and the president accepted, while it said Kim also accepted an invitation from Trump to visit Washington.
North Korea's assertion that the leaders agreed to take a phased approach to disarmament, if true, could be seen as a concession by Trump, who has previously called for the swift and total elimination of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and has said the United States would only agree to lift sanctions once that is accomplished.
Moreover, some experts say North Korea's demand that the two countries take reciprocal steps to ease tensions could be a ploy to win concessions while delaying disarmament.
According to RFE/RL, the statement appeared to tie Pyongyang's steps to lay down nuclear weapons to steps by the United States to halt "irritating and hostile military actions" such as joint military drills with South Korea that have repeatedly antagonized North Korea.
The news agency quoted Kim as saying that if the United States takes "genuine measures for building trust," North Korea would continue to take "additional goodwill measures of next stage commensurate with them."
"In order to achieve peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and realize its denuclearization, the two countries should commit themselves to refraining from antagonizing...each other," it quoted Kim as saying.
The report confirmed Trump's earlier announcement that during the summit, he promised Kim that the United States would stop staging "war games" with South Korea during negotiations with the North.
"We’re not going to be doing the war games as long as we’re negotiating in good faith," Trump told Fox News in an interview late on June 12, in which he also confirmed that he had invited Kim to visit the White House "at the right time."
According to RFE/RL, in posts on Twitter late on June 12, Trump did not confirm the North's claim that he had agreed to a step-by-step approach to disarmament, but he continued to trumpet what he called the "amazing" accomplishments of the summit.
"The World has taken a big step back from potential Nuclear catastrophe!" Trump tweeted.
"No more rocket launches, nuclear testing, or research! The hostages are back home with their families. Thank you to Chairman Kim, our day together was historic!"
"There is no limit to what NoKo can achieve when it gives up its nuclear weapons and embraces commerce & engagement w/ the world. Chairman Kim has before him the opportunity to be remembered as the leader who ushered in a glorious new era of security & prosperity for his citizens!" Trump wrote.
The change in rhetoric coming out of the summit was striking only a year after Trump had dubbed Kim "Little Rocket Man" and Kim called Trump "mentally deranged" as the two leaders for months hurled threats of nuclear annihilation at each other.
Trump has said he forged a "special bond" with Kim during their 45-minute meeting in Singapore, while North Korea said Kim and Trump "deepened friendly feelings" and plan to further improve relations in future visits together.