SEOUL – The South Korean government expressed on Wednesday its regret over North Korea’s decision to cancel a high-level meeting in response to the US-South Korea military maneuvers, which Pyongyang said will jeopardize the summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump in June.
Seoul called Pyongyang’s move “regrettable,” saying it was a “unilateral” decision of the North to postpone the talks by citing the annual air drills, which “does not conform with the spirit and purpose of the agreements reached between the leaders of the two countries,” according to a statement from the South Korean Unification Ministry.
The statement refers to the “Panmunjom Declaration” endorsed on April 27 by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to affirm their commitment on permanent peace and the “complete denuclearization” on the Korean peninsula.
“The government remains strongly committed to faithfully implementing the Panmunjom Declaration and urges the North to come out for talks as soon as possible for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula,” the text added.
For its part, a spokesperson for the South Korean presidential office said in a brief statement that the government is working together with the Ministries of Unification, Foreign Affairs and Defense to “find out the exact meaning of the message the North sent.”
Pyongyang informed Seoul early Wednesday of its decision to cancel the high-level meeting, which was scheduled for the same day.
Shortly after, North Korean state news agency KCNA released a statement denouncing the annual US-South Korean “Max Thunder” aerial maneuvers, labeling them an attempt “to make a preemptive air strike” against its regime.
“The U.S. will have to think twice about the fate of the DPRK-U.S. summit now on high agenda before a provocative military racket against the DPRK,” KCNA said, referring to the upcoming historic summit between the two countries on June 12 in Singapore.
The US-North Korea summit comes as a result of Pyongyang’s interest in discussing nuclear disarmament with Seoul and Washington, which has led to a series of diplomatic contacts among these three states since January.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said that the air manoeuvers would continue, Yonhap news agency reported
“The exercise will proceed as planned, and regarding that, there are no differences between the South and U.S.,” Yonhap quoted the ministry as saying.
“On top of that, the exercise is designed to enhance the capability of pilots and is not an implementation of an operational plan or an attack maneuver,” the ministry added.