Photo/IllutrationNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping smile at a meeting in Dalian, China, in May. (From the Rodong Sinmun’s website)

BEIJING--China provided the impetus for the halt of U.S.-South Korean joint military drills, which U.S. President Donald Trump proposed following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Kim in Dalian, China, on May 7-8, he prodded him to call on Washington to suspend military exercises with Seoul, according to Chinese diplomatic sources.

At the meeting, Kim told Xi that he was ready to release three U.S. citizens who had been detained by North Korea.

Xi supported their release, saying that making the first move would put Pyongyang at an advantage in light of the principle of rewarding an action with an action, according to the sources.

And Xi suggested that Kim should call for the suspension of military exercises between the United States and South Korea in return.

The day after Kim returned to North Korea, the U.S. detainees were released.

Kim also had North Korea's key nuclear testing site dismantled before an international troupe of reporters on May 24, ahead of the June 12 summit with Trump, signaling his nation's move toward denuclearization.

“Our top priority is securing the long-term survival of North Korea’s regime, and it was not on our mind (before the talks with Kim and Xi in Dalian) to demand a halt to U.S.-South Korean military maneuvers,” according to a North Korean source in Beijing.

But Kim called for the suspension of military drills that cast North Korea as the enemy at his meeting with Trump, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

In reply, the U.S. president broached his plans to end the joint military exercises at a news conference after the summit, saying it was not appropriate to negotiate while staging "war games."

The president also called them “tremendously expensive.”

With Trump’s abrupt about-face, his administration appears to be acquiescing to North Korea’s request.

Harry B. Harris Jr., the former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, who was nominated as an ambassador to South Korea by Trump, said at a recent nomination hearing that large-scale exercises should be suspended temporarily, although he was previously reported to have opposed suspending them.

The joint military training has long been a considerable security concern for China.

With tensions in East Asia escalating with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, Beijing has pressed for a simultaneous halt to North Korea’s nuclear program and military maneuvers between the United States and South Korea since March last year.

China also was staunchly opposed to the U.S. military’s deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, which is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.

China appears to be repeating calls for stability on the Korean Peninsula and trying to sway the U.S.-N. Korea talks with the intention of reducing the influence and the threat of the U.S. military on the Korean Peninsula.