North Korea says nuclear talks on verge of extinction and hits out at ‘moron’ Shinzo Abe

Adam Withnall
Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe attends the ASEAN-Japan summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand: AP

North Korea has hit out at the US and South Korea over planned joint military exercises next month, saying that they risk killing off nuclear talks already “on the verge of extinction”.

A North Korean official said the “Vigilant Ace” drills, which previously involved hundreds of aircraft before they were suspended by Donald Trump, would “throw a wet blanket over the spark” of negotiations to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.

Pyongyang says it considers the drills to be rehearsals for an invasion. It was a major coup for leader Kim Jong-un when Mr Trump agreed to stop the war games at a summit between the two in Singapore in June.

But relations have gradually cooled, culminating in a disastrous set of talks in Hanoi in February which broke down when Mr Kim left early.

North Korea has set a deadline of the end of the year for Washington to offer new proposals that might revive negotiations.

In the meantime, the South Korean defence ministry said drills with the US will take place in the coming weeks.

Spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said the South Korean and US militaries have been coordinating over the drills but the scale of the exercises has not been specified.

Speaking on Thursday, senior North Korean diplomat Kwon Jong Gun accused the US of trying to restart the war games that Mr Trump had agreed to suspend.

He said North Korea’s patience was close to its limit, and the country “will never remain an onlooker [to] the reckless military moves”.

Also on Thursday, a North Korean state media commentary lashed out furiously at Japan, the other key American ally in the region, after prime minister Shinzo Abe criticised Pyongyang’s latest military test.

Mr Abe was quoted at an Asian summit as saying that last week’s launches from North Korea were likely ballistic missiles that violated UN sanctions.

Mr Abe said he would nonetheless be willing to meet “without conditions” with Mr Kim, so that the two countries could resolve their difference over the kidnap of as many as 17 Japanese citizens in the 1960s and ’80s.

In response, North Korean commentary described Mr Abe as a “moron” who should not even “dream” of being allowed to visit Pyongyang.

“Japanese Prime Minister Abe, who is now making such a fuss over our super-large multiple rocket launcher test-fire as if a nuclear warhead had fallen on Japanese soil, is a moron,” the North's KCNA news agency said, citing a statement by Song Il Ho, ambassador for ties with Japan.

“Abe, who has been making ill-advised remarks about our legitimate self-defence measures by recklessly wagging his tongue ... should not even dream of crossing the Pyongyang threshold ever.”

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