North Korea said it was suspending high-level talks with South Korea scheduled for Wednesday because of US-South Korean military exercises, which it said threatened warming ties on the divided peninsula.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also cast doubt on whether next month’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump would go ahead as planned, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
“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,” Yonhap quoted KCNA as saying.
“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.”
The US State Department said it is moving ahead with the planned summit in Singapore on June 12 despite the warning from Pyongyang.
“Kim Jong-un had said previously that he understands the need and the utility of the United States and the Republic of Korea continuing in its joint exercises. We will continue to plan the meeting,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.
She said Washington had received “no notification” of a position change by North Korea.
Wednesday’s meeting was to focus on plans to implement a declaration that emerged from an April 27 inter-Korea summit in the border village of Panmunjom, including promises to formally end the Korean War and pursue “complete denuclearisation”, the South’s unification ministry, which handles ties with the North, said on Tuesday.
KCNA called the US-South Korean Max Thunder air combat drills, which it said involved US stealth fighters and B-52 bombers, a “provocation” and said Pyongyang had no choice but to suspend the talks.
The Pentagon played down ongoing military exercises with South Korea saying they were routine and defensive in nature. The Max Thunder air combat drills are scheduled to run from May 14 to 25.
“These defensive exercises are part of the ROK-US Alliance’s routine, annual training programme to maintain a foundation of military readiness,” a statement said.