US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced on Tuesday that the US has no plans to suspend any further military exercises with South Korea amid negotiations with North Korea to denuclearize.
"As you know, we took this step to suspend several of the larger exercises as a good-faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit," Mattis said at a news conference. "We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises. We will work very closely, as I said, with the secretary of state and what he needs done."
However, just one day after Mattis' remarks, Trump openly contradicted the Pentagon official in a White House release, saying he didn't believe that war games were necessary. This is a stance Trump has repeatedly taken in the past.
Lee told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear on Thursday that the opposing remarks highlight an internal split between Trump and friends.
"The administration is internally split between Trump, who does want to settle the Korea issue," Lee, also a writer for website Zoom in Korea, told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou. "And then versus the likes of [US National Security Adviser John] Bolton and Mattis, who want to maintain the status quo in Korea."
"The Pentagon, of course, has vested interests in maintaining the US-ROK [the Republic of Korea, South Korea's official name] alliance, because continued war threats is good business for the weapons industry… South Korea is one of the top purchasers of US weapons," she added.
Lee later stressed to Becker that POTUS was trying to let other administration officials know that he has the final say on the matter. "His comments on the military exercises is his way, I think, of asserting himself and saying to Mattis and to the Korean leaders that ‘I'm the one in charge here,' [and] ‘I decide if the war games end,'" she said.
When asked whether Trump had allies within his own administration on the Korean peace process, Lee indicated that the (former) reality star likely had none, but she hinted at strong alliances with others, such as South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"He has an ally in Moon Jae In and Kim Jong Un, who, for their own reasons, want this peace process to continue so they can continue on with their very important business of economic cooperation, moving toward unification and peaceful coexistence," Lee said, before saying that Chinese President Xi Jinping might also be an ally.
Mattis' comments came days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saw his latest planned visit to North Korea cancelled hours before he was due to depart. The cancellation reportedly took place after Pompeo received a letter from Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Korean Workers Party Central Committee, indicating that the peace talks were on thin ice.
Trump and Kim first met on June 12 of this year in Singapore, a meeting which marked a historic moment for both countries. The pair later signed a four-point declaration that outlined how North Korea and the US would improve ties.