North Korea has threatened to renege on commitments made to the United States on denuclearization, accusing the Trump administration of breaching the “spirit” of the negotiations by planning joint military exercises with South Korea.
North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the military drills were a “rehearsal for war” and broke promises US President Donald Trump made when he met Kim Jong Un at a summit in Singapore in June 2018.
“With the US unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the US as well,” the statement said.
“It is crystal clear that it is an actual drill and a rehearsal of war aimed at militarily occupying our Republic by surprise attack and rapid dispatch of large-scale reinforcements,” it said. “The suspension of joint military exercises is what President Trump, Commander-in-Chief of the US, personally committed to at the DPRK-US summit talks in Singapore under the eyes of the whole world.”
“Our discontinuation of the nuclear and ICBM tests and the US suspension of joint military exercises are, to all its intents and purposes, commitments made to improve bilateral relations. They are not a legal document inscribed on a paper.”
North Korea said in May it had tested “long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons,” but it has not tested a nuclear weapon since 2017.
The Pentagon confirmed the joint exercises Tuesday and said they would take place this fall.
The “Republic of Korea (ROK) and US military forces are preparing to conduct a combined training program this fall. Working with the ROK, this training program has been adjusted to maintain readiness and support diplomatic efforts,” Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, told CNN.
“This routine combined training demonstrates the United States’ commitment to the ROK-US alliance and defense of the Korean peninsula through activities that enhance combined readiness.”
The US and South Korea regularly conduct joint military drills, but suspended or scaled back a number of recent exercises part of an effort to ease tensions with Pyongyang. Tuesday’s warning, made just weeks after Trump became the first sitting US President to set foot in North Korea, threatens to sink the President’s latest attempts to negotiate with Kim.
Trump has made the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula a central aim of his foreign policy, but those efforts have stalled in recent months and appeared on the brink of breakdown when the President walked out of a second summit with Kim in February. He said last month that the pair agreed to restart talks.
Since then, Trump has said he is in “no rush” to reach an agreement with Kim, but the North Korean leader said in a policy speech in April that he will give the US until the end of the year to show more flexibility in the nuclear talks.
“I think they would like to make a deal and we would like to make a deal,” Trump said last month.