This story has been updated to include comments from the U.S. State Department
North Korea on Wednesday threatened to cancel the upcoming U.S. summit over joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea, in a statement by the country’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Pyongyang will also pull out of planned high-level meetings with Seoul set for Wednesday over the Max Thunder military drills.
The talks were supposed to continue building momentum from the recent meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and were also scheduled to take place at Panmunjom.
The North’s described the drills as a provocation and claimed they were a rehearsal for U.S. invasion of the DPRK.
“The DPRK-targeted drill across south Korea is an undisguised challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and a deliberate military provocation to the trend of the favorably developing situation on the Korean Peninsula,” the KCNA report said.
“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 in league with the south Korean authorities.”
The report also saw the North saw South Korea would be held “wholly accountable” if relations soured.
It also suggested that South Korea’s allowing “human scum” – a common epithet used by the country to describe high-profile defectors – to speak publicly may have played a role in its decision to withdraw from Wednesday’s talks.
“The south Korean authorities, in particular, resorted to such improper acts quite contrary to the promise to make efforts for the peace, prosperity and reunification on the peninsula together with the north and are allowing even human scum to brazenly hurl mud at the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and its system and play down the Panmunjom Declaration in front of the building of the ‘National Assembly’,” the KCNA report said.
The comments are likely a reference to a conference held on Monday at the South Korean National Assembly by high-profile former DPRK diplomat Thae Yong-ho.
That speech saw Thae warn against “believing that the North has changed and that [Kim] is very normal, cool and decisive and is showing a bold behavior in virtually abandoning his nuclear arsenals.”
Seoul’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) said Pyongyang informed them it was canceling the meeting at 0030 KST, South Korean media reported.
The U.S. State Department said would continue planning the summit and that it had not heard anything from Pyongyang or Seoul on the issue.
“We will continue to plan the meeting,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.
“We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate we would not continue conducting these exercises or would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month.”
Last year’s Max Thunder joint drills involved approximately 1000 U.S. and 500 ROK personnel in support of various aircraft including F-16s from 7th Air Force, AV-8Bs from the 12th Marine Aircraft Group, and EA-18Gs from the Electronic Attack Squadron 132.
The previous set of joint drills were scheduled to take place during the Winter Olympics held in South Korea in March, but were postponed by U.S. President Donald Trump amid warming relations between the two Koreas.
But after the games, the drills went ahead as normal, though were smaller in scale than in previous years, and resulted in little complaint from North Korea.
Last month Seoul also said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not seem overly concerned about joint military drills.
“Our stance on the joint military drills is that it is hard to postpone the exercises again or suspend them, and there is no justification for doing so. But Kim said that he understands the South’s stance,” a South Korean official told CNN.
The DPRK’s state media did mention the delayed Foal Eagle drills, saying they could derail the positive developments at the Winter Olympics, though there was less outcry than in previous years.
North Korea has historically reacted defensively to the joint ROK-U.S. military drills, sometimes firing missiles or testing weapons in response.