Seoul: Twenty-four hours before scheduled talks, Pyongyang cancelled Wednesday's high-level meet with South Korea as it expressed anger over its joint military exercises with the U.S. The North's official KCNA news agency said the exercises were a "provocation" and a rehearsal for an invasion.
The Max Thunder joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea are an annual undertaking involving U.S. and South Korean Airforce personnel. This year, roughly 1,500 air force personnel are involved in the drills, which began on May 11 and will go on for two weeks, the South's news agency Yonhap said.
Max Thunder "is designed to train allied air forces to quickly generate overwhelming air power under realistic conditions," a U.S. military press release explained after the Max Thunder exercise in 2017. "Max Thunder serves as an invaluable opportunity for U.S. and ROKAF [Republic of Korea Air Force] forces to train together shoulder-to-shoulder and sharpen tactical skills vital to the defense and security of the Korean Peninsula,” U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas Bergeson, head of Seventh Air Force, the service's main unit in South Korea, said at that time.
North Korea also threatened today to cancel a much-anticipated and unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jong-Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, the South's Yonhap news agency reported citing the North's official news agency KCNA.
The North Korean government reportedly said the U.S. will "have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus."
The Trump-Kim Summit is scheduled for June 12 in the City-nation of Singapore.
The Business Insider reported the Pentagon has taken note of Pyongyang’s protest and has responded to it. The Pentagon defended the ongoing joint military exercises with South Korea. The U.S. Department of Defense maintained the exercises with South Korea are "defensive" in nature.
"While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed," Colonel Rob Manning, spokesman for the Department of Defense, said in a statement.
The White House said it's "aware" of the reports on North Korea's alleged threats, adding, "The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies."
The State Department urged caution over the reports. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. "We need to verify it." (With Agency inputs)