Pentagon officials scrambled for a clear message on Tuesday about the USA military presence in South Korea, after President Donald Trump vowed at his summit with the North's leader Kim Jong Un to cancel "provocative" joint drills.
Following the unprecedented meeting in Singapore, Trump stunned observers when he said continuing the exercises routinely held between the US and South Korea would be "inappropriate" while Washington fleshes out a comprehensive deal with Pyongyang.
"This is their life and their future", she said.
While the Singapore agreement calls for a "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", the term CVID is glaringly absent. "That's not what you have to do", Trump said.
The U.S. insists this is the start of a process but the rather vague promises has some concerned that the mistakes of the past could be made again.
Still, after the summit, Trump applauded the North Korean leader and said the people "love" Kim, regardless of Trump's previous remarks denouncing the regime's purported human rights abuses.
The summit was the first in history between a sitting U.S. President and a DPRK leader.
Chung Lee, who is owner of Kim's Korean Restaurant in Spokane, moved to the US from South Korea more than 35 years ago.
And what "exactly was the president committing to?" he added.
"The American military presence in South Korea wouldn't mean much if the militaries don't practice through joint drills", said Moon, now a senior analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.
North Korea has called for an end to the exercises as part of the United States' ending its "hostile policy" toward the country. "Well I think without the rhetoric we wouldn't have been here". Cory Gardner told reporters that they were assured joint military exercises would continue.
In a later interview with the Voice of America, Trump said the North Koreas were "very happy" about his decision to freeze the exercises "because it is so provocative".
Nam said Seoul welcomed the news that President Trump had "sufficiently expressed" his trust in Kim.
Mr. Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal last month, defying last-ditch diplomatic efforts by his European allies to convince him otherwise.