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North Korea Threatens to Cancel Upcoming Summit Between Trump and Kim Because of Military Drills and Feeling Pushed
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16 May 2018 11:59 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Flag of North Korea (Image source: User:Skopp via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Perhaps Donald Trump's backers need to hold off on talks of nominating him for a Nobel Peace Prize. Nothing is written in stone yet regarding his negotiations with North Korea. While it seemed like he and Kim Jong Un were headed to a great new relationship between the two countries ahead of the planned summit, North Korea has suddenly put on the brakes.

Initially, North Korea balked regarding the joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, an annual event referred to as Max Thunder that began Friday. It involves close to 100 warplanes, such as B-52 bombers and F-15K jets.

"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," said a report by the Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea Defense MInistry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo stated after the KCNA announcement, "The Max Thunder drill is training for the pilot skill enhancement, not an attack drill or implementation of an operation plan." 

Army Col. Robert Manning III, a Pentagon spokesman, added that the event is a "routine, annual training program to maintain a foundation of military readiness." He added, "While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed." 

However, North Korea referred back to the Panmunjom Declaration, the agreement signed last month by Kim and Moon. "This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea," stated KCNA, "is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula."

Later, North Korea stated that the U.S. has to stop insisting that it "unilaterally" abandon its nuclear program and cease discussions about a Libyan-style solution. 

Kim Gye Gwan, North Korean nuclear negotiator and vice foreign administrator, added that if the White House approaches the planned Kim-Trump summit "with sincerity" towards improving relations, "it will receive a deserved response from us."

He then added the following warning: "However, if the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit."

Trump and his advisers have said they are looking for the "complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization of North Korea." National security adviser John Bolton wants North Korea to commit to something similar to when Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi agreed in 2004 to give up its nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions.

Experts on the history of the two conflicted countries are not surprised. "The U.S. and South Korea hold an exercise, which contains some strategic strike elements to it. U.S. officials can't seem to get on the same page regarding denuclearization and what is required of North Korea," stated Ken Gauge, an expert on North Korea leadership at CNA. "At some point North Korea was going to cry foul."

There is less than a month for the interested parties to get this straightened out, as Trump and Kim are planning to meet in Singapore on June 12. Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman, says the U.S. has not received a notice of change or cancellation for the upcoming summit. 

However, North Korea has canceled talks with officials from South Korea that had been scheduled for Wednesday. They were to send five senior officials to Panmunjom to meet with South Korean officials.

"Such action of the North is inconsistent with the fundamental spirit and purpose of the Panmunjom Declaration agreed by the South and North leaders on April 27," said unification ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun.

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