North Korea on Tuesday threatened to cancel the planned June 12 summit in Singapore between President Trump and dictator Kim Jong-un over ongoing South Korea and US military drills, according to a new report.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing reports from North Korea’s state media, said that what was supposed to be a historic meeting over the North’s nuclear weapons program, trade sanctions and other issues could be imperiled.
The two-week military exercises kicked off Friday, and involved 100 warplanes, including eight F-22 fighters and an unspecified number of B-52 bombers and F-15K jets, Yonhap reported.
The North also said it was canceling high-level talks with the South planned for Wednesday due to the exercises.
The North’s Central News Agency claimed that the Max Thunder drills between the South Korean and US air forces were a rehearsal for an invasion of the North and a provocation amid improving relations between the two Koreas.
“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 development on the Korean Peninsula,” the North’s KCNA report said.
“We have no choice but to suspend the North-South high-level talks planned for the 16th amid this menacing situation where an indiscriminate ruckus to invade the North and a confrontational mayhem are occurring in the South.”
The North’s news agency also had a message for the US.
“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 cancellation would be a blow to Team Trump, which won the release of three Americans held prisoners in the North and concessions from Kim to dismantle a nuclear research facility as relations warmed between the two longtime adversaries.
The high-level talks between North and South were supposed to take place on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom to discuss follow-up measures to the two Korean leaders’ summit last month.
A spokeswoman for the State Department said later Tuesday that the US was caught flat-footed by the report.
“We haven’t had a whole lot of time to dig into that,” State’s Heather Nauert told reporters in a hastily arranged briefing.
“I will say that Kim Jong-un had said previously that he understands the need and the utility of the United States and of the Republic of Korea continuing in joint exercises,” she said.
“They’re exercises that are legal, that are planned well, well in advance. We have not heard anything from that [North Korea] government or the government of South Korea to indicate we would not continue conducting these exercises or would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong un next month.”
Nauert stressed that the report came out of the blue.
“We have no information whatsoever,” she admitted.
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