Pyongang: North Korea has abruptly cancelled high-level talks with Seoul and threatened to pull out of a planned summit with Donald Trump if the US continues to insist on the regime giving up all of its nuclear weapons.
A North Korean official said the country had no interest in a summit with US if it was based on “one-sided” demands to give up nuclear weapons, according to state media.
Citing first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea’s central news agency also said the fate of the US summit as well as bilateral relations “would be clear” if Washington speaks of a Libya-style denuclearisation for the North.
The statement added Trump would remain as a “failed president” if he followed in the steps of his predecessors.
“We will appropriately respond to the Trump administration if it approaches the North Korea-US summit meeting with a truthful intent to improve relations,” Kim said.
He added: “But we are no longer interested in a negotiation that will be all about driving us into a corner and making a one-sided demand for us to give up our nukes and this would force us to reconsider whether we would accept the North Korea-US summit meeting.”
The statement came after North Koreacancelled a meeting with South Korean officials just two hours before it was due to start on Wednesday, in protest at joint US-South Korean military exercises, codenamed Max Thunder.
The drills, which began on Friday, involve about 100 warplanes from the US and South Korea, including eight F-22 stealth fighters and an unspecified number of B-52 bombers.
Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying that a B-52 bomber, which has yet to join the drills, may not participate, in what could be interpreted as a concession to Pyongyang.
But South Korea’s defence ministry said exercises will continue, saying they were strictly defensive in nature and designed to help pilots improve their skills.
Max Thunder is one of several annual exercises involving the US and South Korean military that are routinely condemned by the North as preparation for an invasion.
South Korea’s defence minister, Song Young-moo, was to hold an emergency meeting with Gen Vincent Brooks, the commander of US Forces Korea, to discuss the allies’ response to the North’s protest.
For North Korea, the presence of bombers in joint US-South Korea drills triggers painful memories of the 1950-53 Korean war.
According to US air force estimates, bombing raids by US B-29s caused more damage to North Korea’s urban centres during that conflict than that seen in Germany or Japan during the second world war, with the US dumping 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea compared with 503,000 tons during the entire Pacific war.
Baik Tae-hyun, a spokesman for South Korea’s unification ministry, described Pyongyang’s decision as “regrettable” and said it ran counter to the “spirit and purpose” of the Panmunjom declaration agreed by Kim and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, last month.
Baik urged the North to swiftly return to the talks but would not speculate on whether the North’s move would affect next month’s planned meeting between Kim and Trump.
KCNA said the manoeuvres represented a “flagrant challenge” to the joint declaration by Kim and Moon at a summit at the “truce village” of Panmunjom on the dividing line between their countries in April.
The two leaders agreed to completely “cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict”.
The state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said the US had not heard directly from North Korea about any second thoughts.