North Korea said Wednesday it is cancelling high-level talks with South Korea planned for later in the day and threatened to pull out of a summit with the United States over the ongoing military exercises between the South and the United States.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency said the Max Thunder drills between the South Korean and US air forces are a rehearsal for an invasion of the North and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties.
It also called into question whether the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump could go ahead as planned.
“The DPRK-targeted drill across South Korea is an undisguised challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and a deliberate military provocation to the trend of the favourably developing situation on the Korean Peninsula,” the KCNA report said. “We cannot but take a step of suspending the north-south high-level talks scheduled on May 16 under the prevailing seriously awful situation that a mad-cap north-targeted war and confrontation racket is being kicked up in South Korea.”
To the US, it said: “The U.S. will have to think twice about the fate of the DPRK-U.S. summit now on high agenda before a provocative military racket against the DPRK in league with the South Korean authorities.”
The two-week exercise kicked off Friday, involving some 100 warplanes, including eight F-22 radar-evading fighters and an unspecified number of B-52 bombers and F-15K jets.
The high-level talks were meant to take place Wednesday on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom to discuss follow-up measures to the two Korean leaders’ summit last month.
The summit agreement billed the Panmunjom Declaration, called for formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War within the year and pursuing “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.
The two leaders – South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim – also agreed to halt all hostile acts against each other, open a joint liaison office in the North’s border city of Kaesong and push various economic cooperation projects.
The North Korean state news agency accused Seoul and Washington of carrying out large-scale air drills against Pyongyang before the “ink on the declaration had a chance to dry.”
South Korea and the US will be making a serious mistake if they believe they can get away with their “war rehearsals” in light of the North’s recent efforts to improve relations with the South and hold talks with the US, it warned.
“There is a limit to the amount of good will and opportunity (we) can give,” the report said. “We will be keenly watching the future behaviour of the US and South Korean authorities.”
Seoul’s unification ministry said it was informed of the meeting’s “indefinite postponement” at 0:30 a.m., in a notice sent by Ri Son-kwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, a North Korean agency in charge of inter-Korean exchange.
Meanwhile, a senior North Korean official warned Wednesday that Pyongyang would reconsider the agreed-upon summit talks with the United States if it comes under continued pressure to “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear program.
Yonhap quoted Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan saying: “We will not be interested in talks anymore if (they) only try to push us unilaterally into a corner and force us to give up nukes.”
“It would be inevitable to reconsider whether to respond to the upcoming summit with the US,” added a statement issued by him today.
He urged Washington to join talks with sincerity, which would be met by “proper responses” by the North.
Kim’s remarks came hours after North Korea abruptly announced an indefinite suspension of inter-Korean talks planned for Wednesday, citing ongoing joint military drills between South Korea and the US
The US earlier said that it continues to plan for the historic summit despite the regime’s threat to withdraw. The two leaders are set to meet in Singapore on 12 June.
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