North Korea casts doubt on Trump summit, suspends talks with South
North Korea on Wednesday threw into question an unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled for next month, denouncing military exercises between South Korea and the United States as a provocation and calling off high-level talks with Seoul.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attend a banquet on the Peace House at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea.(Reuters pic)
SEOUL:North Korea on Wednesday threw into question an unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled for next month, denouncing military exercises between South Korea and the United States as a provocation and calling off high-level talks with Seoul.
A report on North Koreaâs official Korean Central News Agency angrily attacked the âMax Thunderâ air combat drills, which it said involved U.S. 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.
Any cancellation of the June 12 summit in Singapore, the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader, would deal a major blow to Trumpâs efforts to score the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency.
Trump has raised expectations for a successful meeting even as many analysts have been skeptical of the chances of bridging the gap due to questions about North Koreaâs willingness to give up a nuclear arsenal that now threatens the United States.
The KCNA report called the air drills a âprovocationâ that went against the trend of warming ties.
âThis exercise, targeting us, which is being ca rried 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,â KCNA said, referring to a joint statement from an April 27 inter-Korea summit.
âThe United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities,â KCNA said.
A Trump-Kim summit until recently had looked impossible given the insults and threats the two leaders exchanged last year over North Koreaâs development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.
âKim 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,â U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.
âWe 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,â she said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the United States would examine the North Korean statement âand continue to coordinate closely with our allies.â
South Koreaâs National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong said in early March, after meeting Kim, that the North Korean leader understood that âroutineâ joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States would continue in spite of a warming of ties.
This was widely considered to be a major North Korea concession, though Pyongyang never publicly withdrew its long-standing demand for an end to the drills.
Kimâs latest move could be aimed at testing Trumpâs 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.
A U.S. government expert on North Korea said Kim may also be trying to gauge whether Trump is willing to walk away from the meeting, which has prompted the presidentâs supporters to suggest he deserves to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Any acquiescence by Trump to a North Korean demand for a halt to joint drills would likely undermine South Korean and Japanese trust in his commitment to their security. Kim has also shown a desire to win international approval for his diplomatic outreach, and any sign that he is sabotaging the talks could damage this effort.
SUSPENDED NORTH-SOUTH MEETING
KCNA said North Korea was suspending a ministerial-level North-South meeting, which had been due to be held on Wednesday to focus on plans to implement the inter-Korea summit declaration, including promises to formally end the Korean War and pursue âcomplet e denuclearizationâ.
âThe U.S. should make efforts to create an atmosphere for mutual respect and confidence before dialogue, not resorting to a foolish farce that may reverse the good trend created with much effort,â KCNA said.
The Pentagon said the May 14-25 âMax Thunderâ exercises were routine and defensive in nature. A spokesman said the exercises would take place at Gwangju air base and would be âat a scale similar to that of the previous yearsâ.
Last year, Max Thunder involved about 1,500 U.S. and South Korean personnel flying aircraft including F-16 fighter jets, according to a U.S. Air Force website.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the United States would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program, a move that would create economic prosperity that would rival that of South Korea.
North Korea said on Saturday it would dismantle its nuclear bomb test site some time between May 23 and May 25 to uphold its pledge to cease tests.
Joshua Pollack, of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, said Pyongyang appeared irritated by the U.S. administrationâs vow to maintain sanctions in spite of North Korean concessions.
âThe North Koreans want a change in tone from the U.S., and at least so far, theyâre not hearing one,â he said.
A South Korean presidential adviser warned on Tuesday that an incremental North Korean approach to denuclearization would not be acceptable to Trump or the South Korean public.
Bonnie Glaser, of Washingtonâs Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said Kim may be being influenced by Chinese President Xi Jinping after two recent meetings with the Chinese leader, who has advocated a freeze in North Koreaâs nuclear program in return for a freeze in U.S.-South Korean drills.
âThe fact this issue is back on the table suggests Xi Jinping may have raised it with Kim, and that Kim is carrying Xiâs water,â she said.
Source: Google News