North Korea said it may reconsider holding a summit if the United States continues to push the country to give up its nuclear programme, officials said this morning.
The fate of the US-North Korea summit “would be clear” if Washington speaks of a Libya-style denuclearisation for the North, first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan said.
Kim Jong-un’s regime said Donald Trump would remain as a “failed president” if he follows in the steps of his predecessors.
The North yesterday threatened to cancel the much anticipated Trump-Kim summit over the South Korea-US military drills.
The communist country scrapped high-level talks with officials form their neighbouring country which had been planned for later today.
It is the first major roadblock relations between the two countries have hit since Kim began attempting to improve relations with the outside world following crippling sanctions.
South Korean news agency Yonhap has reported: “The North’s Korean Central News Agency said the Max Thunder drills between the South Korean and US air forces are a rehearsal for invasion of the North and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties.
“The high-level talks were meant 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.”
“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 political development on the Korean Peninsula,” Yonhap quoted KCNA as saying.
“The 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.”
Joint South Korean and United States military drills
Every year South Korea and the United States take part in a combined field training exercise under the name Foal Wagle.
It has been a source of friction for North Korea for years.
The two month long annual joint military drill involved some 300,000 South Korean soldiers and 10,000 US troops.
Though it is purely defensive in nature, tension mounts during the combined training as Pyongyang perceives it as a preparation for an invasion.
In February 2014, South Korean defense officials claimed a North Korean warship repeatedly crossed into South Korean territorial waters in spite of repeated warning.
The alleged incursion occurred just as South Korea was joining the United States in bilateral Foal Eagle 2014 military exercises.
This year’s Foal Eagle drills were suspended for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang but were resumed on April 1.
“Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and the Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo have agreed to resume the annual combined exercises including Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, which were deconflicted with the schedule of the Olympic Games,” the Pentagon noted in April.
“The United Nations Command has notified the Korean People’s Army on the schedule as well as the defensive nature of the annual exercises,” the statement continued.
North Korea perceives the exercises as a ruse toward an invasion of its territory and protests them every year in its state-run media.
The talks today were due to focus on plans to implement a declaration that emerged from an April 27 inter-Korea summit,including promises to formally end the Korean War and pursue “complete denuclearization,” the South’s unification ministry, which handles ties with the North, said on Tuesday.
After cancelling the scheduled talks with South Korea, representatives also threatened to pull out of the much-anticipated summit next month.
Kim Jong-un is currently set to meet with Donald Trump on June 12 in Singapore, after a dramatic thawing of relations between the two countries.
Just last year Trump was railing against Kim and calling him ‘Little Rocket Man’ following a series of missile tests by the communist country.
But in recent months the North Korean dictator has taken steps to improve relations with China, South Korea and the United States.
The choice of Singapore as the site of the first-ever meeting of a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader was as much because it was within reasonable flight time and distance from Pyongyang as because of the island state’s political neutrality, a South Korean presidential official told reporters.
The US state department say plans for the summit on June 12 are continuing.
A historic meeting meeting Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently took place at the DMZ, with Kim becoming the first North Korean leader to cross over into the South in 65 years.
Moon briefly crossed over into the North while holding Kim’s hand.
Last week North Korea announced on state media it will dismantle its nuclear test site just weeks ahead of the summit.
The rogue nation will start to take the facility apart on May 23, with international media watching.
The country’s central news agency said the dismantlement of the nuclear test ground would involve collapsing all of its tunnels with explosions, blocking its entrances and removing all observation facilities, research buildings and security posts.
Journalists from other countries, including the United States and South Korea, will be invited to cover the event.
The nuclear site that will be dismantled is located in Pukyung, and the area around Pumyeong nuclear test site will also be closed.
Last month, five nuclear test blasts in Pyongyang, under Mount Mantap, tore open a hole in the mountain which then collapsed upon itself.
Researchers also found that breakdown created a “chimney” which could allow radioactive fallout from the blast zone below to rise into the air.
Now, U.S. intelligence showed North Koreans had already started pulling cables from the tunnels at their nuclear test site.
But experts say the process could take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to USA Today.
Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang on a mission to retrieve three Americans held prisoner in the communist nation.
He returned a day later with Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim on board his government jet. Trump, eager to reap the PR benefit of a public splash, went to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland at 2am to greet them personally.
The prisoner release was seen as a first step toward the planned summit.
Olli Heinonen, an arms control expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a national security think-tank, said: “This would be the biggest undertaking by the international community when it comes to denuclearization or disarmament.”
Kim recently flew into Dalian in northern China for a secret meeting, his only known overseas trip by air since he took power in 2011.
He flew in his personal Ilyushin-62M jet accompanied by a cargo plane that people with knowledge of North Korean affairs say is believed to have carried his limousine.
“It looks very much like the trip to Dalian was a dry run,” said Andray Abrahamian, a research fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS and formerly with Choson Exchange, a Singapore-based group that trains North Koreans in business skills.
At 4,700 km from Pyongyang’s Sunan airport, Singapore is easily in the range of the Il-62M aircraft.
The Soviet-era narrow-body jet with four engines was first introduced in the 1970s and has a maximum range of 10,000 km.
But the Ilyushin-76 cargo plane cannot fly more than 3,000km without refuelling if carrying a full load.
It will therefore have to stop off at a friendly location like Vietnam’s capital on the way to Singapore or fly with a reduced load.