North Korea threat­ens to can­cel U.S. sum­mit

Mil­i­tary ex­er­cises cited as rea­son for pos­si­ble ac­tion

Albuquerque Journal - - WORLD & NATION - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Wed­nes­day can­celed a high-level meet­ing with South Korea and threat­ened to scrap a his­toric sum­mit next month be­tween U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over mil­i­tary ex­er­cises be­tween Seoul and Wash­ing­ton that Py­ongyang has long claimed are in­va­sion re­hearsals.

The sur­prise dec­la­ra­tion, which came in a pre-dawn dis­patch in North Korea’s state me­dia, ap­pears to cool what had been an un­usual flurry of out­reach from a coun­try that last year con­ducted a provoca­tive series of weapons tests that had many fear­ing the re­gion was on the edge of war.

It’s still un­clear, how­ever, whether the North in­tends to scut­tle all diplo­macy or merely wants to gain lever­age ahead of the planned June 12 talks be­tween Kim and Trump.

The state­ment was re­leased hours be­fore the two Koreas were to meet at a bor­der vil­lage to dis­cuss set­ting up talks aimed at re­duc­ing mil­i­tary ten­sion along the world’s most heav­ily armed bor­der and restart­ing re­unions be­tween fam­i­lies sep­a­rated by the Korean War.

The North’s Korean Cen­tral News Agency called the two-week-long Max Thun­der drills, which be­gan Mon­day and re­port­edly in­clude about 100 air­craft, an “in­tended mil­i­tary provo­ca­tion” and an “ap­par­ent chal­lenge” to an April sum­mit be­tween Kim and South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, when the ri­val lead­ers met on their bor­der and agreed to re­duce an­i­mos­ity and set up more high-level ex­changes.

“The United States must care­fully con­tem­plate the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. sum­mit amid the provoca­tive mil­i­tary ruckus that it’s caus­ing with South Korean au­thor­i­ties,” the North said Wed­nes­day. “We’ll keenly mon­i­tor how the United States and South Korean au­thor­i­ties will re­act.”

An­nual mil­i­tary drills be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Seoul have long been a ma­jor source of con­tention be­tween the Koreas, and an­a­lysts have won­dered whether their con­tin­u­a­tion would hurt the de­tente that, since an out­reach by Kim in Jan­uary, has re­placed the in­sults and threats of war. Ear­lier — and much larger — spring­time drills, which Wash­ing­ton and Seoul toned down, went off with­out the North’s typ­i­cally fiery con­dem­na­tion or ac­com­pa­ny­ing weapons tests.

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