May 15, 2018
Pointing to "provocative" military drills the U.S. and South Korean air forces are conducting in the region, North Korea is warning that the war games could jeopardize a highly anticipated summit scheduled to take place in Singapore next month, which is supposed to bring together the North's leader, Kim Jong Un, and U.S. President Donald Trump.
The warning came as the North abruptly canceled a Wednesday meeting with representatives from South Korea just hours in advance. Denouncing the "Max Thunder" joint drills that kicked off on Friday, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North's state media, said:
This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula...
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.
The Associated Press reports that representatives at the Wednesday meeting were planning "to discuss setting up military and Red Cross talks aimed at reducing border tension and restarting reunions between families separated by the Korean War."
Following KCNA's announcement, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the Trump administration had not heard anything from the North or South Korean governments "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."
The development comes as North Korea proceeds with its plans to destroy Punggye-ri, the complex where the country has conducted all of its known nuclear tests, ahead of the June 12 summit with Trump. The North has said it will invite foreign reporters--including some from the United States--to witness the dismantlement, which is set to occur sometime next week.
KCNA, citing a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement, reported that "dismantlement of the nuclear test ground will be done in the following sequence--making all tunnels of the test ground collapse by explosion; completely blocking entries; removing all observation facilities, research institutes and structures of guard units on the ground."
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