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Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 16:36
DPRK may 'reconsider' US meet, puts off ROK talks
By ​Xinhua
Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 16:36 By ​Xinhua

A barricade is placed near Unification Bridge, which leads to the demilitarized zone, near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, Republic of Korea (ROK), May 16, 2018. DPRK on Wednesday canceled a high-level meeting with ROK and threatened to scrap a historic summit next month between US President Donald Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong-un over military exercises between Seoul and Washington that Pyongyang has long claimed are invasion rehearsals. The barricade reads: "Vehicles disapproved." (AHN YOUNG-JOON/AP)

PYONGYANG/WASHINGTON/SEOUL - A senior official of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Wednesday said the country may reconsider a scheduled DPRK-US summit if the United States insists on pressuring DPRK to abandon its nuclear arsenal. 

DPRK's First Vice-Foreign Minister blamed the US for uttering provocative words against the DPRK weeks before the summit, calling them disappointing

The DPRK's First Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement that the Trump administration must show sincerity in its desire to meet with the DPRK to improve bilateral relations. 

However, if the United States only wants to press the DPRK to abandon its nuclear arsenal, the latter would have to reconsider whether to attend, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim as saying. 

Kim blamed the US for uttering provocative words against the DPRK weeks before the summit, calling them disappointing. He said the White House national security advisor John Bolton had even urged the DPRK to abandon its nuclear arsenal first in order to receive benefits on trade, a similar stance previously taken with Libya.
"This is not about solving problems through dialogue, but is intended to replay the tragedy of Libya on the DPRK," he said, adding that Libya "has totally collapsed after handing over its fate to big powers."
"I am not only furious about the US rhetoric but also seriously suspicious of its sincerity to improve relations through dialogue and consultation," said Kim in the statement. 

The DPRK had earlier announced a suspension of a ministerial level meeting with the Republic of Korea (ROK) to protest an ongoing US-ROK joint military drill. 

The high-level inter-Korean talks had been scheduled for Wednesday, and US President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet the DPRK's top leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore. 

ROK's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a phone conversation over DPRK's decision to suspend high-level inter-Korean talks scheduled for Wednesday, Seoul's foreign ministry said. 

READ MORE: US outlines plans to help DPRK subject to denuclearization

Kang had the talk at the request of Pompeo. The unscheduled phone conversation came as Pyongyang unilaterally suspended the high-level inter-Korean dialogue, which the two sides agreed Tuesday to hold Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss ways to implement the Panmunjom Declaration. 

According to KCNA, the "2018 Max Thunder" joint air combat exercise is aimed at launching pre-emptive strikes against the DPRK

The DPRK suspended the inter-Korean talks before dawn citing the ongoing ROK-US joint air maneuvers. 

The two-week-long "Max Thunder" joint air combat exercise kicked off on May 11, mobilizing about 100 aircrafts, including eight F-22 stealth fighter jets as well as F-15Ks and F-16s. 

The DPRK's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that "F-22 Raptor" radar-evading warplanes and "B-52" strategic bombers, mobilized to the ROK-US joint annual air drills, are aimed at launching pre-emptive strikes against the DPRK as well as taking control of the airspace. 

The Korean version of the KCNA report described the drill as an act of "playing with fire," saying that it is a "blatant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula." 

According to KCNA, Washington should think twice about the fate of the planned DPRK-US summit. 

Shortly after the report, the US State Department said it continued to prepare for the summit between President Donald Trump and the DPRK's top leader Kim Jong-un scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. 

The Pentagon played down the ongoing military exercises with ROK, saying they were routine and defensive in nature. 

"Republic of Korea (ROK) and US military forces are currently engaged in the recurring, annual ROK-US spring exercises, to include exercises Foal Eagle 2018 and Max Thunder 2018," a Pentagon spokesman said, adding that the Max Thunder air combat drills were scheduled to run from May 14-25. 

"These defensive exercises are part of the ROK-US Alliance's routine, annual training program to maintain a foundation of military readiness." 

A US Lockheed Martin F22 Raptor stealth fighter aircraft performs a display at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) in Seongnam, south of Seoul, on Oct 16, 2017. (ED JONES / AFP)

Seoul's unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs expressed regret over the suspended talks, saying it was against the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration, which was proclaimed after the third inter-Korean summit between ROK President Moon Jae-in and top DPRK leader Kim Jong-un on April 27. 

Moon and Kim agreed to complete denuclearization and the turn of the current armistice agreement into a peace treaty by the end of this year. The Korean Peninsula remains technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with armistice. 

ALSo READ: ROK military says DPRK preparing nuke site closure

During the phone conversation, the ROK foreign minister explained to Pompeo Seoul's position to sincerely enforce the Panmunjom Declaration and its plan to urge Pyongyang to rapidly return to the dialogue table. 

Pompeo told Kang that the US side would continue making preparations for the upcoming DPRK-US summit scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, while being cautious about Pyongyang's decision to delay the inter-Korean dialogue. 

Seoul's defense ministry said in a separate statement that the joint ROK-US air drills will be conducted as scheduled as the exercises are just aimed at improving pilots' capability. 

The ministry said in the statement that the F-22 stealth fighters came to ROK last year. But it was unusual for such a high number of F-22 Raptors to be mobilized amid thawing ties between the two Koreas.  

With Reuters input

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