N. Korea suspends inter-Korean talks in protest at air drills

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-05-16 08:33 Updated : 2018-05-16 08:33
글씨작게 글씨크게

[AP / Yonhap]

SEOUL -- In a sudden twist to rapprochement brought by a historic summit, North Korea suspended inter-Korean talks on Wednesday, blasting a joint air exercise by U.S. and South Korean war planes as an intentional provocation that hurt "positive development" on the Korean peninsula.

The North warned the two-week Max Thunder exercise could affect a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. The exercise that kicked off on Friday involved some 100 warplanes, including eight F-22 radar-evading fighters. It is one of the joint exercises which have been staged annually by the allies.

The Koreas were supposed to hold high-level talks Wednesday in the truce village of Panmunjom on how to implement the so-called Panmunjom Declaration signed by their leaders in April. 

"We have no choice but to suspend the North-South high-level talks," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, citing a "menacing situation where an indiscriminate ruckus to invade the North and a confrontational mayhem."

"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 development on the Korean Peninsula," KCNA said, accusing Seoul and Washington of carrying out air drills targeting Pyongyang before the "ink on the declaration had a chance to dry."

"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," KCNA said.

Seoul and Washington will be making a serious mistake if they believe they can get away with their "war rehearsals" in light of Pyongyang's efforts to improve inter-Korean relations and hold talks with the U.S., it said.

"There is a limit to the amount of good will and opportunity (we) can give," KCNA said. "We will be keenly watching the future behavior of the U.S. and South Korean authorities."

The North agreed to shut down its nuclear test site and invited foreign journalists to cover the dismantlement of its Punggy-ri test site between May 23 and 25 in a conciliatory gesture that followed the release of three American citizens detained in the isolated country.