Update II: North Korea’s decision to suspend talks with the South after abruptly cancelling an inter-Korean summit set for Wednesday has apparently rattled the US.
In what appears to be a concession to North Korea – or at least, a hypothetical one – Yonhap reported Tuesday night that the US is considering withholding its B-52 bombers from joint exercises with South Korea taking place this week.
In a return to its pre-detente rhetoric, North Korea said Tuesday that it felt threatened by the exercises, and threatened to retaliate.
* * *
Update: The State Department says it had not received any information from North Korea concerning a threat to cancel the historic US-North Korea summit set for June 12. The State Department said it’s still operating under the assumption that the Singapore summit is still happening.
* * *
North Korea has abruptly canceled talks with South Korea that had been set for Wednesday – and is threatening to walk away from talks with the US – over joint US-South Korea military drills, according to South Korean newswire Yonhap.
Repeating a familiar line, North Korea’s Central News Agency said the “Max Thunder” drills involving South Korea and the US air force were a “rehearsal for an invasion” of the North and an unnecessary “provocation” amid warming inter-Korean ties.
The North has already made several gestures of sincerity, including releasing three US hostages and “closing” its ruined nuclear testing facility.
South and North Korea were expected to discuss “follow-up measures” after the two warring neighbors reached an historic agreement late last month. The talks were scheduled to take place on the southern side of Panmunjom, the village where the Korean War Armistice was signed, and where last month’s inter-Korean summit took place.
The North had said it would send a five-member delegation led by Ri Son-kwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, according to Yonhap.
The delegation was to include Kim Yun-hyok, vice railroad minister, and Won Kil-u, vice sports minister, and will be accompanied by more than 20 staff and journalists, the North Korean ministry said.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s five-member delegation was set to be led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon. Cho would’ve been accompanied by four other officials, including Kim Jeong-ryeol, vice transportation minister, Roh Tae-kang, vice cultural minister, and Ryu Kwang-soo, vice minister of Korea Forest Service.
The meeting would’ve marked the first time that officials from the two countries had met following last month’s summit, where South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un signed an agreement vowing to cease military hostilities. They also agreed to allow families separated by the Korean War to reunite.
A historic summit between North Korea and the US is set to take place June 12 in Singapore.