North Korea pulled out within two hours of a scheduled meeting with South Korea after its counterpart resumed military exercises with the United States. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un believes the joint military exercises are drills for a potential invasion of his country.
Kim has also threatened to cancel the planned meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12.
North Korea’s change of heart came as a surprise. Last March, Kim told South Korean official that he fully understood why the military drills would have to resume after the Winter Olympics. Instead, Kim expressed hope that the exercises would undergo changes once a peace has been achieved in the Korean peninsula.
This has led analysts to suspect Kim’s posturing may be his way of gaining a negotiating advantage over President Trump.
Kim and his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in were supposed to discuss how the agreements they reached during the historic April summit would be implemented.
According to the North Korean government agency KNCA, the two- week military exercises called Max Thunder would involve 100 aircraft including nuclear-ready B-52 bombers and F-22 stealth fighter jets. KNCA called the joint military exercises a simulated “military provocation” and an “apparent challenge” to the achievements of the April summit:
“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. We’ll keenly monitor how the United States and South Korean authorities will react.”
Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea’s first Vice-Foreign Minister, said Pyongyang has no interested in a “one-sided” summit with Washington. Kim also was critical of comments made by U.S. Security Adviser John Bolton who suggested Pyongyang should follow the “Libyan” model for its plan to discontinue its nuclear program:
“We will appropriately respond to the Trump administration if it approaches the North Korea-U.S. summit meeting with a truthful intent to improve relations. But we are no longer interested in a negotiation that will be all about driving us into a corner and making a one-sided demand for us to give up our nukes and this would force us to reconsider whether we would accept the North Korea-U.S. summit meeting.”
Kim Jong-un assumed power shortly after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in a bloody revolution. Kim has often referred to that event as the reason for developing North Korea’s nuclear program.
Recently, as an act of goodwill, North Korea had released three Americans who were imprisoned during the period of 2015 to 2017 for various offenses. President Trump had applauded Kim’s gesture and noted it as a positive development toward peace talks.