Vietnam Time

5/16/2018 8:26:39 AM

North Korea casts doubt on Trump summit, cancels talks with Seoul

North Korea on Wednesday (May 16th) called into question a much-anticipated and unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump set for next month.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attend a banquet on the Peace House at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27th, 2018. (Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters)

Pyongyang also cancelled high-level talks due on Wednesday with Seoul over the Max Thunder joint military exercises being held between the United States and South Korea, denouncing the drills as a "rude and wicked provocation".

"There is a limit to the amount of goodwill and chances we can give," the North's official news agency KCNA said.

The drills between the two allies' air forces were a rehearsal for invasion and "a deliberate military provocation" at a time when inter-Korean relations were warming, it added.

"The U.S. will have to think twice about the fate of the DPRK-U.S. summit," KCNA said, referring to the North by its official acronym.

Washington said it will continue to plan the meeting in Singapore on June 12th, with State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert telling reporters it had received "no notification" of a position change by North Korea.

The language used by KCNA is a sudden and dramatic return to the rhetoric of the past from Pyongyang, which has long argued that it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against the United States.

Hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War stopped with a ceasefire, leaving the two halves of the peninsula divided by the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) and still technically at war.

At a dramatic summit last month in Panmunjom, the truce village in the DMZ, Kim and the South's President Moon Jae-in pledged to pursue a peace treaty to formally end the conflict, and reaffirmed their commitment to denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

But the phrase is open to interpretation on both sides and the North has spent decades developing its atomic arsenal, culminating last year in its sixth nuclear test - by far its biggest to date - and the launch of missiles capable of reaching the U.S.

The drive has seen it subjected to multiple rounds of U.N. Security Council resolutions, while Trump and Kim traded personal insults and threats of war last year.

OLYMPIC THAW

Relations underwent a sudden turnaround as Moon used February's Winter Olympics in the South to broker talks between Washington and Pyongyang, before meeting with Kim in the DMZ last month.

The Trump-Kim summit is due in Singapore on June 12th, with Washington demanding the North give up its weapons in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way.

High-level talks were meant to take place in the DMZ on Wednesday to discuss follow-up measures to the Panmunjom summit between Kim and Moon.

But KCNA called the Max Thunder drills a "flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration" taking place before the "ink on the declaration had a chance to dry".

In a statement, Seoul's unification ministry, which handles relations with the North, said it had received a message "in the name of chief delegate Ri Son Gwon that they were postponing the high-level talks indefinitely".

"Accordingly, today's high-level talks won't take place and the government will react following consultations among relevant agencies," it added./.

VNF/AFP  
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