The North has reportedly abandoned plans for a follow-up meeting with the South and is considering its next move with the US after being angered by their joint military exercises.
North Korea has suspended high-level talks with South Korea scheduled for Wednesday, after Kim Jong-un took exception to its current joint military drills with the United States.
Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) labelled the ‘Max Thunder’ air combat exercises — which involve some 100 warplanes, including B-52 bombers and F-15K jets — a rehearsal for an invasion, and scrapped a follow-up meeting to the historic summit between the two Korean leaders last month.
“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,” the South’s Yonhap news agency quoted KCNA as saying.
The North has also warned the US that the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, set down for 12 June in Singapore, is also teetering on a knife edge.
“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 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.
White House officials are scrambling to verify the media reports, with State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert saying they had not been in contact with the Koreas.
“We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month,” Nauert said.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves this news just came out. We need to verify it to get additional information on that but we’re going forward in planning our meetings next month.”
"We will continue to plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un," State Dept. spokesperson Heather Nauert says amid reports that North Korea is threatening to pull out of summit with the U.S. https://t.co/4eUtpV7fbW pic.twitter.com/Fd2aAr8mKT
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 15, 2018
Press secretary Sarah Sanders added, “We are aware of the South Korean media report. The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies.”
The military drills have long caused Kim to bristle, but the US and South Korea have always maintained they are defence-driven.
“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,” Nauert added.