North Korea said on Tuesday that if US-South Korea military exercise drills are continued, it could halt the peace and anti-nuclear talks set to take place later this month.
The US and South Korea have participated in joint military drills for years on South Korean soil, where close to 30,000 US troops stationed there practice maneuvers. The exercises have always been a point of tension between North Korea and the US, with the North claiming that they are “very provocative” rehearsals for an invasion.
However, after talks with Kim Jong Un last June at a summit in Singapore, President Donald Trump agreed that he would suspend the drills in hopes to appease North Korea and allow their peace talks to resume. In response, North Korea decided that it would discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The plan was working, North Korea has not tested nuclear weapons since last June, and the tension between the two countries was ebbing. With the exception of North Korea testing new short-range missiles in May.
Then in February, a second summit in Hanoi between Trump and Kim collapsed as the two nations could not reach an agreement over sanctions relief that North Korea feels is too strict and their willingness to give something in return for such relief. Thus, the failed summit stalled any further conversations.
But in a surprise move, President Trump arranged an impromptu meeting on the border between the two Koreas last month. Here Trump made history as the first sitting president to be allowed to cross the border and step onto North Korean soil. He and Kim agreed to resume ‘working-level’ talks about peace and the denuclearization of North Korea.
The president even invited Kim to visit him at the White House at a later date to continue talks. Further talks are expected to take place within the coming weeks.
Or at least they were. These talks are believed to be delayed at this time, according to a report received by South Korean diplomatic sources.
Since the first summit last year, the primary annual drills in South Korea have been stopped completely. But some smaller-scaled exercises are still held in which the size, number, timing, and scope had been cut down drastically. The next of these small drills is to take place in August.
But even these small-scale drills appear to threaten the nuclear state of North Korea. A foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that continued exercises are a “rehearsal of war” and that if the US was “unilaterally reneging on its commitments” than North Korea just might consider doing the same, in which it would begin testing nuclear weapons again.
“We are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the US as well,” said the spokesman.
He said, “It is crystal clear that it an actual drill and a rehearsal of war aimed at militarily occupying our Republic by surprise attack.”
It sounds more like they are just a tad paranoid.
As a spokeswoman for US Forces Korea (USFK) says in response, “Readiness remains the number one priority for USFK.” She went on to say, “As a matter of standard operating procedure, and in order to preserve space for diplomacy to work, we do not discuss any planned training or exercise publicly.”
However, she did say the South Korean and US troops continued to train jointly, but they had scaled such defensive efforts down to “harmonize” their training with diplomatic efforts. Officials in Seoul say that the drills are purely defensive in nature.
Does North Korea really expect both South Korea and the US to not remain on the defensive? Especially at a time when tensions are high with other countries besides the pro-nuclear state.
North Korea says, “We will formulate our decision on the opening of the DPRK-US working-level talks, while keeping watch over the US move hereafter,” using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.