North Korea warns US as it suspends South Korea talks over military drills
(CNN) — North Korea says the US should carefully consider the fate of the North Korea-US summit, in view of what it calls “provocative military disturbances with South Korea,” North Korea’s state news agency reported early Wednesday local time.
The warning comes as KCNA reported North Korea has suspended talks with South Korea because of a joint military drill conducted by South Korea and the US.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended joint US-South Korean military exercises Tuesday and said the US had not heard of any disruptions to either the planned exercises or the upcoming summit.
While media reports were just emerging as she took the briefing room podium, Nauert said, “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.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” she cautioned to reporters. “This news just came out. We need to verify it to get additional information on that but we’re going forward in planning our meetings next month.”
A senior administration official told CNN that President Donald Trump has been alerted to the warning about the fate of the June 12 summit in Singapore and that the White House is preparing a response.
However, the White House was caught off guard by the reports, according to aides. One official affirmed the State Department’s assertion that it has received no information from Pyongyang about the status of the talks.
Meetings are underway now between White House officials, the National Security Council and Defense Department, the official said.
Talks between the Koreas were set to resume Wednesday.
The KCNA report said the Max Thunder 2018 air combat drill was against the Panmunjom declaration — signed last month between the Koreas — wherein they agreed to cease all hostile acts against each other.
KCNA labeled the Max Thunder drills a “deliberate provocation.”
The Pentagon said Tuesday that “Republic of Korea (ROK) and US military forces are currently engaged in the recurring, annual ROK-U.S. spring exercises, to include exercises Foal Eagle 2018 and Max Thunder 2018.”
The exercise involves the US Air Force and South Korean forces with about 2,000 troops participating, a Department of Defense official told CNN.
“These defensive exercises are part of the ROK-U.S. Alliance’s routine, annual training program to maintain a foundation of military readiness,” a statement from Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning noted.
“The purpose of the training is to enhance the ROK-U.S. Alliance’s ability to defend the ROK and enhance interoperability and readiness. While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed,” Manning added.
Back in March, when South Korea’s national security adviser told reporters at the White House that Kim had invited Trump to meet, he also said that Kim “understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.”