Pyongyang (North Korea): In a surprise move on Wednesday North Korea canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea over military exercises between Seoul and Washington that Pyongyang has long claimed are invasion rehearsals.
During the meeting, the two countries were expected to discuss ways to implement their leaders’ recent agreements to reduce military tensions along their heavily fortified border and improve their overall ties.
In the declaration in a pre-dawn dispatch in state media, North Korea also threatened to scrap a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which is scheduled to be held next month in Singapore.
"If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue. In that case, Pyongyang would have to "reconsider" its participation at the summit, due in Singapore on June 12", first vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement carried by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The minister also blasted US National Security Advisor John Bolton's talk of a "Libyan model" for North Korean denuclearisation. It was a "sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq", he said. "I cannot suppress indignation at such moves of the US, and harbour doubt about the US sincerity."
Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, the US aircraft mobilised for the military drills include nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and stealth F-22 fighter jets - two of the US military assets it has previously said are aimed at launching nuclear strikes on its territory.
The military drills called ‘Max Thunder’ are taking place between the US and South Korea air forces. The statement by KCNA called the two-week drill, which began Monday and reportedly included about 100 aircraft, an “intended military provocation” and an “apparent challenge” to the summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held in April 2018.
“The United States must carefully contemplate the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit amid the provocative military ruckus that it’s causing with South Korean authorities,” Pyongyang said. “We’ll keenly monitor how the United States and South Korean authorities will react.”
On the other hand, South Korean called North Korea’s move “regrettable” and demanded a quick return to talks. Seoul’s Unification Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun said the North’s decision goes against the spirit of last month’s inter-Korean summit, where the Koreas’ leaders issued a vague vow on the “complete denuclearization” on the Korean Peninsula and pledged permanent peace between the rivals, Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, Washington said it will continue to plan the meeting in Singapore on June 12, with State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert telling reporters it had received "no notification" of a position change by North Korea.
"The exercises were "not provocative" and would continue", Nauert is quoted by AFP.
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