The fate of the Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit hangs in the balance with North Korea threatening to pull out if the United States insists that it abandons its nuclear programme. North Korea’s news agency, KCNA, citing first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan, said a clear picture would emerge if Washington speaks of a Libya-style denuclearisation for the North. The statement added Trump would remain as a “failed president” if he follows in the steps of his predecessors.
Adding to the uncertainty, North Korea cancelled a high-level meeting with South Korea hours before they were to meet on Wednesday, in the wake of the recent military drills between Seoul and Washington.
Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released an statement regarding cancellation of the meeting. During the meeting, the two countries were expected to discuss ways to implement their leaders’ recent agreements to reduce military tensions along their heavily fortified border and improve their overall ties.
The military drills called ‘Max Thunder’ are taking place between the US and South Korea air forces. The statement by KCNA called the two-week drill, which began Monday and reportedly include about 100 aircraft, an “intended military provocation” and an “apparent challenge” to an April summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, when the leaders met on their border in their countries’ third-ever summit talks since their formal division in 1948.
KCNA said the US aircraft mobilised for the drills include nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and stealth F-22 fighter jets, two of the US military assets it has previously said are aimed at launching nuclear strikes on the North.
“The United States must carefully contemplate the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit amid the provocative military ruckus that it’s causing with South Korean authorities,” Pyongyang said. “We’ll keenly monitor how the United States and South Korean authorities will react.”
South Korea called North Korea’s move “regrettable” and hoped the talks would soon resume. Seoul’s Unification Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun said the North’s decision goes against the spirit of last month’s inter-Korean summit, where the Koreas’ leaders issued a vague vow on the “complete denuclearisation” on the Korean Peninsula and pledged permanent peace between the rivals.
Meanwhile, the White House said it would independently look at what Pyongyang has said and maintained it was going ahead with preparations for the summit as planned earlier, as there has been no word from North Korea on the ongoing exercises.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the US is aware of the media reports in this regard. “The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies,” Sanders said.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Kim had previously indicated he understood the need and purpose of the US continuing its long-planned joint exercises with South Korea. “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,” she told reporters at her daily news conference.
(With inputs from agencies)