PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea on Tuesday suggested it might call off its 20-month suspension of nuclear and missile tests because of summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills that the North calls preparation for an eventual invasion.
The statement by the North’s Foreign Ministry comes during a general deadlock in nuclear talks, but after an extraordinary meeting of the U.S. and North Korean leaders at the Korean border that raised hopes that negotiations would soon resume.
The comments ramp up pressure on the United States ahead of any new talks.
North Korea has had longstanding antipathy toward U.S.-South Korean military cooperation, which the allies call defensive and routine but the North sees as hostile.
At the dramatic June 30 meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, Trump crossed the border dividing the North and South, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korean territory. The leaders agreed in closed-door talks to resume nuclear diplomacy that had been stalled since their failed second summit in Vietnam in February.
Despite the seeming mini-breakthrough, there has been little public progress since. North Korea wants widespread relief from harsh U.S.-led sanctions in return for pledging to give up parts of its weapons program, but the United States is demanding greater steps toward disarmament before it agrees to relinquish the leverage provided by the sanctions.
Amid the diplomatic jockeying, North Korea said Tuesday that expected regular summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills are forcing it to rethink whether to remain committed to the promises it has made to the United States. It cited its moratorium on nuclear and missile tests and other steps aimed at improving ties with Washington.
The statement said Trump vowed to suspend military drills with South Korea during his first and third meetings with Kim, but the expected summertime drills with Seoul and the deployment of weapons in the South show that Washington is not fulfilling that promise.
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