Next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump is in jeopardy after North Korea threatened to cancel the meeting. The proposed summit between Trump and Kim is scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. It would be the first time a North Korean leader met with a sitting U.S. president.
The surprise declaration came in a pre-dawn dispatch in North Korea’s state media. The United States has not received a notice of any change or cancellation, according to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies.”
The main issue appears to be joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises currently taking place. North Korea said that the joint Air Force drills taking place in South Korea are ruining the diplomatic mood. North Korea considers the military exercises to be a rehearsal for an invasion.
The two-week-long Max Thunder drills between the two countries’ Air Forces is an annual event held in the spring for about 10 years. The exercises are slated to run through May 25, and are expected to include about 100 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. showcasing their firepower. According to a U.S. military statement, about 1,000 U.S. troops and 500 South Koreans were involved last year.
Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the exercises are part of a “routine, annual training program to maintain a foundation of military readiness.” He said, “While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed.” The South Korean and U.S. militaries did scale back and play down the exercises. The news media has been denied its usual access to the drills.
North Korea also canceled scheduled talks with South Korean officials less than 24 hours after agreeing to them. North Korea had said it would send five senior officials to Panmunjom for meetings with South Korean officials to discuss some of the infrastructure aid that South Korea would provide to the North. The talks were also going to focus on reducing military tension along the border and restarting reunions between families separated by the Korean War. South Korea didn’t immediately make any official response to the North’s announcement.