North Korea US Nuclear Diplomacy
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s supreme decision-making body lashed out Wednesday at planned U.S.-South Korean military drills and warned that the United States will face a “bigger threat and harsh suffering” if it ignores North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s end-of-year deadline to salvage nuclear talks.
In a statement carried by state media, an unidentified spokesperson for the North’s State Affairs Commission said the drills would violate agreements between Kim and President Donald Trump on improving bilateral relations and compel North Korea to raise its war readiness.
Kim is chairman of the commission, which he established in 2016 following years of efforts to consolidate his power and centralize governance.
The statement is North Korea’s latest expression of displeasure over the military drills and slow pace of nuclear negotiations with Washington. The talks have stalled over disagreements on disarmament steps and sanctions relief.
North Korea has also ramped up its missile tests in recent months and experts say it is likely to continue weapons displays to pressure Washington as Kim’s deadline nears for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal.
The spokesperson said annual U.S.-South Korea military drills are continuing to cause a “vicious cycle” in relations between the U.S. and North Korea.
“The United States must show self-restraint and refrain from careless actions at a sensitive time when the joint exercises can send the political situation of the Korean Peninsula back to square one,” the statement said.
“If the current flow in the political situation doesn’t change, the United States will soon face a bigger threat and harsh suffering that will force them to acknowledge their mistake.”
Last week, senior North Korean diplomat Kwon Jong Gun said a joint aerial exercise planned by the U.S. and South Korea in coming weeks amounted to "throwing a wet blanket over the spark" of nuclear negotiations that are "on the verge of extinction." Kwon said North Korea’s patience was nearing its limit and that it will “never remain an onlooker" to "reckless military moves."
Since the start of the nuclear talks last year, the United States and South Korea have canceled or scaled back their regular military drills to create space for diplomacy. But North Korea says the smaller drills are still a rehearsal for an invasion and has reacted strongly to the exercises during stalemates in the negotiations.
The talks have faltered since the collapse of a February summit between Trump and Kim in Vietnam, where the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for the partial surrendering of its nuclear capabilities.
North Korea responded with intensified testing activity and Kim said he would "wait with patience until the end of the year for the United States to come up with a courageous decision." Kim has also said that North Korea would seek a “new way” if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure.