President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to South Korea said on Thursday that the world is in "a dramatically different place” after Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this week, while also backing a halt to major military exercises on the Korean peninsula.
Retired Adm. Harry Harris voiced support for the president’s diplomatic efforts at his nomination hearing on Thursday morning. For the first time in his four-decade naval career, Harris said, peace with North Korea is a possibility.
“We were in a different place in 2017. North Korea was exploding nuclear weapons, they were launching ballistic missiles almost willy-nilly. If war wasn’t imminent, it was certainly possible, maybe even likely,” Harris told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
"Today, following the president’s summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, we are in a dramatically different place. The landscape has shifted," Harris added.
Harris support to Trump’s controversial pledge to halt joint military exercises with South Korea. Trump this week appeared to take South Korea by surprise when he told reporters he would hit pause on what he called the "war games" — a phrase often used by Pyongyang to describe the exercises that North Korea believes are a rehearsal for a potential invasion.
"I believe we should give major exercises a pause to see if Kim Jong Un is serious on his part in the negotiations," he said.
Harris said he believes there is reason to be optimistic in regards to talks with North Korea.
“I think we need to create some breathing space for negotiations to continue and to assess whether Kim Jong Un is serious on his part of the deal or not. This gives us that opportunity," he said.
Harris said he’d prefer to refer to the so-called “war games” on the Korean peninsula as “major exercises.”
He also told the committee he does not expect the administration will halt all routine readiness military operations.