DPRK suspends high-level talks with Seoul over U.S.-South Korea military exercise
PYONGYANG, May 16 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said early Wednesday that it would suspend high-level talks with South Korea infinitely and threatened to withdraw from a scheduled meeting with the United States over an ongoing U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise.
The announcement came ahead of the expected meeting between DPRK top leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12 in Singapore.
"The South Korean authorities, together with the United States, has been staging the largest-ever '2018 Max Thunder' joint air drill throughout South Korea since May 11 in a bid to make a preemptive air strike at the DPRK and win the air," said the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
This is a deliberate challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration jointly issued by Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in and another demonstration of "maximum pressure and sanctions" policy of the United States and South Korea towards the DPRK, said the KCNA.
Pyongyang decides to suspend "the north-south high-level talks scheduled on May 16 under the prevailing seriously awful situation that a mad-cap north-targeted war and confrontation racket are being kicked up in South Korea," it said.
The KCNA also called on Washington to "think twice about the fate of" the scheduled summit between Kim and Trump.
"The United States will have to think twice about the fate of the DPRK-U.S. summit now on a high agenda before a provocative military racket against the DPRK in league with the South Korean authorities," it said.
The two-week drill involves over 100 aircraft including B-52 strategic nuclear bombers and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters. "The DPRK-targeted drill across South Korea is an undisguised challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and a deliberate military provocation to the trend of the favorably developing situation on the Korean Peninsula," it added.
Kim and Moon held a landmark summit in the truce village Panmunjom on April 27, with both sides pledging to make joint efforts to defuse the acute military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and substantially ease the danger of war so as to usher in a new era of peace.
The DPRK announced Saturday that it will hold a ceremony for the dismantling of its nuclear test site on May 23-25, taking a step forward towards the denuclearization of the peninsula.
The DPRK and South Korea were due to hold their ministerial-level talks on Wednesday at Panmunjom on the implementation of the joint declaration to improve inter-Korean relations and increase exchanges between the two sides.
The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it was continuing to prepare for the summit between Trump and Kim. The United States has not heard anything directly from Pyongyang or Seoul that would change the arrangements, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing in Washington.
The U.S. side needs to verify the KCNA's report, she said. "We've received no formal or even informal notification of anything." "We've seen some pretty good indications from them so far," she said, citing the DPRK's release of three American detainees last week. "So they have taken some steps in the right direction ... I think those are all good signs."