Despite North Korea's threat, WH still hopeful on Trump-Kim meet: Updates

North Korea today suspended talks with South Korea and threatened to scrap summit with Trump over US-South Korea joint military drills and other issues, including denuclearisation

USA, North Korea

North Korea abruptly announced a suspension of high-level inter-Korean talks scheduled for Wednesday, citing ongoing US-South Korean military drills and also threatened to pull out of a summit with US President Donald Trump if Washington pushes it to give up nuclear weapons.

North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the "Max Thunder" drills between the South Korean and US Air Forces "were a rehearsal for invasion of the North and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties".

It also called into question whether June 12 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump would go ahead as planned.

The two-week US-South Korea exercise kicked off on Friday, involving some 100 warplanes, including eight F-22 radar-evading fighters and an unspecified number of B-52 bombers and F-15K jets.

Kim's statement, carried by the state media, said that if the US "corners us and unilaterally demands we give up nuclear weapons we will no longer have an interest in talks" and "will have to reconsider" attending the summit in Singapore.

He said North Korea did have "high hopes" but that it was "very unfortunate that the US was provoking us ahead of the summit by spitting out ludicrous statements".

In an angry statement, North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan accused the US of harbouring sinister intentions. He pointed the finger squarely at US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

What is the inter-Korean talks that North Korea suspended?

The inter-Korean talks were meant to take place on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom to discuss follow-up measures to the two Korean leaders' summit in April.

The summit agreement, billed the Panmunjom Declaration, called for formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War within the year and pursuing "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim also agreed to halt all hostile acts against each other, open a joint liaison office in the North's border city of Kaesong and push various economic cooperation projects.

Pyongyang accused Seoul and Washington of carrying out large-scale air drills against Pyongyang before the "ink on the declaration had a chance to dry".

Seoul's Unification Ministry said it was informed of the meeting's "indefinite postponement" in a notice sent by Ri Son-kwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, a North Korean agency in charge of inter-Korean exchange.

It is a sudden and dramatic return to the rhetoric of the past by Pyongyang, after months of rapid diplomatic rapprochement on the peninsula.

Here are the top 10 highlights on North Korea suspending inter-Korean talks and threatening to call of Trump-Kim summit:

1. White House says 'still hopeful' Kim-Trump summit will happen
The White House is "still hopeful" the summit between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump will proceed despite Pyongyang's threat to cancel it, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said today.

"We're still hopeful that the meeting will take place and we'll continue down that path," Sanders told reporters. "At the same time ... we've been prepared that these might be tough negotiations. The president is ready if the meeting takes place."

2. Why is North Korea threatening to call of Trump-Kim summit? North Korea on Wednesday threatened to cancel the forthcoming summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump if Washington seeks to push Pyongyang into unilaterally giving up its nuclear arsenal.

"If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue," first vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement carried by state media.

In that case, he added, Pyongyang would have to "reconsider" its participation at the summit, due in Singapore on June 12.

The North's arsenal is expected to be at the top of the agenda of the historic talks, but Pyongyang has long insisted it needs the weapons to defend itself against invasion by the US. 

3. US says it is 'going ahead' with preparations of summit with North KoreaThe US today said that it is going ahead with preparations for a meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month after an angry Pyongyang threatened to cancel the historic summit, alleging that America was trying to push it "into a corner" on nuclear disarmament.

The White House said it would independently look at what Pyongyang has said. The State Department said it was going ahead with preparations for the summit as planned earlier.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the US is aware of the media reports from North Korea.

"The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies," Sanders said.

The State Department said it is continuing with the preparations for the summit and there has been no word from North Korea on the ongoing exercises.

4. Why did North Korea suspend high-level talks with South Korea? In a missive delivered to South Korea in the early hours during the day, North Korea said it was suspending high-level talks scheduled for Wednesday in view of "provocative military disturbances with South Korea."

North Korea's anger, which took both Seoul and Washington off guard, came as the two allies were conducting annual "Max Thunder" air force drills, which Pyongyang has always objected to in the past and accused of destabilising the situation on the Peninsula, the CNN reported.

An earlier KCNA report said the Max Thunder 2018 air combat drill was against the declaration -- signed last month between the Koreas -- wherein they agreed to cease all hostile acts against each other, the CNN reported.

In March though, North Korea had said it understood that the drills were necessary.

5. South Korea’s take on North Korea’s decision: In a statement, South Korea's Unification Ministry said it was regrettable that the North unilaterally postponed the talks due to the annual (South Korea-US) joint air combat drills.

"Such action by the North is inconsistent with the fundamental spirit and purpose of the Panmunjeom Declaration agreed by the South and North leaders on April 27," it added. 

6. North Korea against US-South Korea military drills: North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that, "The US will have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities.”

"This (joint military) exercise targeting us... is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive development on the Korean Peninsula," the report said.

"We have no choice but to suspend the North-South high-level talks planned for the 16th,” the report added. 

The two-week drills started last Friday and involves some 100 aircraft from the two allies, including F-22 stealth fighter jets.

7. US suggesting North Korea to follow ‘Libya model’ a sinister move: US National Security Adviser John Bolton had earlier said North Korea could follow a "Libya model" of verifiable denuclearisation, but Pyongyang in the past had suggested that Libya may have escaped Western military intervention in 2011 had it kept its nuclear weapons programme.

Bolton's comments, Kim Kye-gwan said, were indicative of "an awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq that had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers".

"It is absolutely absurd to dare compare (North Korea), a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development," he said.

"World knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate,” he added.

The North has long said it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself against a US invasion. After giving up his atomic programme, Libyan leader Moamer Khadafi was killed in an uprising backed by NATO bombing.

8. Won't allow anything threatening India's security, says North KoreaEven as North Korea keeps the world in suspense over its proposed talks with the US and South Korea, the East Asian nation has given its assurance that it will not allow any action that will create concerns for India's security.

The assurance came during Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh's two-day visit to North Korea that concluded on Wednesday. This was the first ministerial-level visit from India to North Korea in 20 years.

According to a statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry, Singh held discussions with Vice President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly Kim Yong Dae, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Minister of Culture Pak Chun Nam and Vice Foreign Minister Choe Hui Chol "on a range of issues covering political, regional, economic, educational and cultural cooperation between the two countries".

The statement said the North Korean side "provided an overview of some of the recent developments in the Korean Peninsula".

Singh reiterated India's support to the joint peace initiative of North and South Korean leadership, encouraging both sides for their efforts towards the establishment of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.

Singh also highlighted the threat from nuclear proliferation, in particular, India's concerns in the context of the proliferation linkages with India's neighbourhood.

9. China hopes Kim-Trump summit will go aheadChina called today for North Korea and the United States to go ahead with their historic summit as planned after Pyongyang threatened to pull out of the scheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

The North also cancelled high-level talks due Wednesday with Seoul because of US-South Korean military air exercises, denouncing the drills as a "rude and wicked provocation".

"The situation on the peninsula has eased up, which is worth cherishing," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

"We hope... some of the high-level meetings that (the two sides) have been working towards can be held smoothly and... results can be achieved," Lu said.

10. How Wall Street reacted to the newsA fall in oil prices and growing doubts about the US-North Korea summit next month capped gains on the major indexes.

North Korea threw next month's summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump into doubt, threatening weeks of diplomatic progress by saying it may reconsider if Washington insists it unilaterally gives up its nuclear weapons.

The country's threat to cancel the June 12 summit in Singapore adds to the jitters in the market, which is already dealing with China-US trade tensions and inflation concerns.

Oil prices took a hit from an anticipated rise in U.S. crude inventory, pulling the S&P energy index down 0.25 per cent.