The United States on Wednesday said that it is going ahead with preparations for a meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month after an angry Pyongyang threatened to cancel the historic summit, alleging that America was trying to push it “into a corner” on nuclear disarmament.
North Korea has threatened to abandon planned talks between Kim and Trump in June if Washington insists on pushing it “into a corner” on nuclear disarmament.
A statement published by the state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said North Korea would never accept economic assistance from the US in exchange for unilaterally abandoning its nuclear programme.
In the meeting on June 12 in Singapore, the two countries were expected to discuss ways to implement their leaders’ recent agreements to reduce military tensions along their heavily fortified border and improve their overall ties.
The statement that comes after a brief hiatus in the war of words between Trump and Kim is likely to mar efforts towards building a denuclearised Korean Peninsula.
Reacting to the reports, the White House said it would independently look at what Pyongyang has said. The State Department said it was going ahead with preparations for the summit as planned earlier.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the US is aware of the media reports from North Korea.
“The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies,” Sanders said.
The State Department said it is continuing with the preparations for the summit and there has been no word from North Korea on the ongoing exercises.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Kim had previously indicated he understood the need and purpose of the US continuing its long-planned joint exercises with South Korea.
“We have not heard anything from that government or the Government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month,” she told reporters.
According to Col Rob Manning, the Pentagon Spokesperson, Republic of South Korea and US military forces are currently engaged in the recurring, annual South Korea-US drills, to include exercises Foal Eagle 2018 and Max Thunder 2018.
“These exercises are part of the ROK-US Alliance’s routine, annual training program to maintain a foundation of military readiness,” he said.
“The purpose of the training is to enhance the ROK-US Alliance’s ability to defend the ROK and enhance inter-operability and readiness. While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed,” Manning said.
The State Department refuted the allegations that these exercises are provocative in nature.
“They’re certainly not provocative. These are things that we do all around the world with many of our partners and allies. These are things that have occurred for decades and decades,” Nauert said.
At the same time, she ruled out the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaching out to the North Koreans.
“I don’t think he’s picking up the phone and begging anybody to do anything at this point. We are operating under the idea and the notion that the president’s meeting is going forward with Chairman Kim next month,” Nauert said in response to a question.
North Korea’s official news agency KCNA, Pyongyang cited the ongoing military exercise between the US and South Korea as a reason behind the threat to cancel the Trump-Kim summit.
“The joint exercise is a reflection of the invariable stand of the US and South Korea to persist in the ‘maximum pressure and sanctions’ against DPRK (North Korea),” it said.
DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is more commonly known as North Korea.
Meanwhile, North Korea also cancelled its planned high-level inter-Korean talks with South Korea due to the South Korea-US military exercises.
“We cannot but take a step of suspending the North-South high-level talks scheduled on May 16 under the prevailing seriously awful situation,” the KCNA said.
North Korea held the South Korean authorities “wholly accountable” for the scuttled North-South talks and unease in the North-South relations.
“The US will have to think twice about the fate of the DPRK-US summit now on high agenda before a provocative military racket against the DPRK in league with the south Korean authorities,” the statement said.