Pyongyang has canceled talks with Seoul due to ongoing Max Thunder military exercises between the South and the US, Yonhap news agency cited North Korean media. The drills have been described by the North as a rehearsal for invasion of the DPRK and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties.
AFP reported that North Korea has also threatened to scrap the highly-anticipated summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The meeting is scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.
The news comes as a blow after the historic talks between the leaders of two Koreas in April and the meeting between Kim and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo said Sunday that any deal paving the way for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula will have to include certain US safeguards, and reassurance that Kim won’t become a target of yet another regime change attempt.
Pyongyang had scheduled the dismantling of its nuclear bomb test site to take place between May 23-25, North Korean media reported on Saturday.
Reports that the talks have been suspended come just hours after Seoul and Pyongyang agreed on Tuesday to hold high-level inter-Korea talks on May 16. The leaders were planning to discuss steps needed to follow the plan of the peninsula’s denuclearization.
Wednesday’s now suspended talks were to include a 29-strong delegation from North Korea led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the ‘Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country’ along with a five-member South Korean delegation, led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon.
The Max Thunder 18 drills are one of a number of joint military drills carried out by South Korea and the US in the Korean peninsula. North Korea has long viewed these drills as a show of aggression towards Pyongyang.
The two-week Max Thunder 18 air drills kicked off on Friday, with over 100 planes taking part, including F-22 fighters and B-52 bombers, Yonhap reported last week.
“Through this practical exercise, the air forces of South Korea and the US plan to improve aerial operations techniques,”an anonymous South Korean official told Yonhap.