North Korea Just Made An Unexpected Move That Could End Talks With Trump
On Tuesday, North Korea announced that it has canceled high-level talks with South Korea, putting the planned summit next month between President Trump and Kim Jong Un is at risk, North’s Korean Central News Agency reported.
The move was prompted by the ongoing joint military exercises between the South and the United States, North Korea said.
The news agency said the Max Thunder drills between the South Korean and U.S. air forces are a rehearsal for an invasion of the North and an “intentional military provocation” to undermine recent diplomatic talks.
“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,” North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency said in a statement first reported by the Yonhap News Agency in South Korea.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, however, said there had been no talks between the United States and North Korea about the statement attributed to the North Korean news agency.
“I just saw that report as I was coming out here,” said Nauert at an on-camera press briefing.
She said the military exercises are planned well in advance, and that Kim said previously that he understands the need and the utility of continuing the joint exercises.
“We have not heard anything from the North Korean 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,” Nauert said.
She added: “We will continue to go ahead and plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.”
The drills have been a longtime aggravation for North Korea, which has previously condemned the exercises as acts of aggression.
North Korea last week released three Americans detainees following a visit from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a step hailed by Trump.
But foreign policy experts have been skeptical of North Korea’s sudden willingness to engage in discussions about abandoning its nuclear program, noting that the country has reneged on past promises.
Trump, who has praised Kim as “very honorable” during the lead-up to their summit, has said he’d be willing to walk out of the meeting if negotiations were not fruitful.
For decades, the U.S. has been pushing for Pyongyang to fully and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program. In return, the U.S. would aid the North Korean economy by lifting sanctions and allowing private capital to flow into the country.
Leaders from North and South Korea had been scheduled to meet Wednesday at the Peace House along the border between the two countries, but those talks were scrapped, according to Yonhap.
The meeting was intended as a follow-up to an April 27 discussion in which leaders pledged to put an official end to the Korean War and work toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.