NORTH KOREA cancelled high-level talks with the South on Wednesday, citing military exercises as the reason for the last minute cancellation. The change throws doubt on the highly anticipated summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, scheduled for June 12.
A report on North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) angrily attacked the “Max Thunder” air combat drills, which it said involved US stealth fighters and B-52 bombers, and appeared to mark a break in months of warming ties between North and South Korea and between Pyongyang and Washington.
The KCNA report called the air drills a “provocation” that went against the trend of warming ties.
“This exercise, targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” KCNA said, referring to a joint statement from an April 27 inter-Korea summit.
“The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities,” KCNA said.
The statement was released hours before the two Koreas were to meet at a border village to discuss how to implement their leaders’ recent agreements to reduce military tensions along their heavily fortified border and improve their overall ties.
A statement from the US State Department emphasised that Kim had previously indicated he understood the need and purpose of the US continuing its long-planned exercises with South Korea. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US had not heard anything directly from Pyongyang or Seoul that would change that.
“We will continue to go ahead and plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un,” Nauert said.
Plans for the talks between delegations from the North and South were only proposed on Tuesday by Pyongyang. The quick back-peddling of that offer and the subsequent threats to the Trump summit could be targeted at showing a domestic audience that Kim is willing to stand up to Washington.
Kim could also be testing Trump’s willingness to make concessions ahead of the summit, which is due to be preceded by a visit to Washington next week by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Additional reporting by Reuters.