SEOUL – North Korea may cancel next month’s scheduled summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump in response to US-South Korean joint military exercises, Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency said on Wednesday.
Pyongyang’s news agency said that the Max Thunder military exercises are a rehearsal for an invasion of North Korea and “an intentional military provocation” being undertaken despite “warming inter-Korean ties.”
“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 said.
In Pyongyang’s judgment, the maneuvers violate the “Panmunjon Declaration” signed on April 27 by Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in that city on the border between the two Koreas and in which the two nations committed themselves to permanent peace and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The military exercise, which is scheduled to begin on May 18, will include about 100 warplanes, including F-22 Raptor fighters, virtually undetectable by radar, as well as F-15 fighter-bombers and B52 strategic bombers.
South Korea and the US regularly hold joint military exercises that have always been rejected by Pyongyang, which considers them to be not only a threat but actual practice runs for an invasion of the north.
After learning of the possibility that North Korea might cancel the June 12 summit in Singapore between Kim and Trump, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that Washington is not planning to cancel the maneuvers and is continuing to plan for the leaders’ meeting.
“We have not heard anything from (Pyongyang) 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 said.
Nauert went on to say that the military exercise is “legal,” “planned well in advance” and “not provocative,” adding that “What we have to go on is what Kim Jong-un has said before, that he understands and appreciates the importance to the United States of having these joint exercises, the Republic of Korea has as well. We’ve received no formal or even informal notification of anything.”