Seoul ‘regrets’ its drills with US forced Pyongyang to cancel intra-Korean talks
South Korea has accused its northern neighbor of undermining the spirit of reconciliation after Pyongyang abruptly called off Wednesday’s high-level intra-Korean meeting in protest over joint US-S. Korean military drills.
“It is regrettable that the North’s unilateral move to postpone the high-level inter-Korean talks, citing the annual South Korea-US air drills does not conform with the spirit and purpose of the agreements reached between the leaders of the two countries,” the unification ministry said in a statement cited by news agency Yonhap.
South Korea urged Pyongyang to return to the negotiations table, stressing that Seoul remains “strongly committed” to the so-called Panmunjom Declaration, adopted during the historic summit of Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in on April 27.
Meanwhile, criticizing Washington’s demands for unilateral concessions and unconditional “nuclear abandonment,” North Korea’s first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye-gwan recalled the eventual fate of Libya and said such negotiations style is unacceptable for Pyongyang. Deputy FM’s remarks came a day after Pyongyang’s decision to cancel negotiations triggered by Max Thunder 2018 military exercises between the South and the US, which are viewed by the North as a rehearsal for the invasion of the DPRK and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties.
“This training is aimed at .. and is a deliberate challenge to the Panmunjom declaration and is a deliberate military provocation,” KCNA wrote on Wednesday. “This training... reflects the unchanging attitude of the US and South Korea to continue 'maximum pressure and sanctions' against us.”
The North also threatened to scrap the highly-anticipated summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “The US will have to think twice about the fate of the DPRK-US summit,” KCNA said. “There is a limit in showing goodwill and offering opportunity.”
Washington however still aims to hold the Trump-Kim meeting as planned and has defended the right to conduct drills with its Asian ally.
“We 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,” State Department's spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday.
“I will say that Kim 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. They’re exercises that are legal; they’re planned well, well in advance,” she added.
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