Summit in doubt

South Korean President Noon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attend a banquet on the Peace House at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarised zone seperating the two Korea, in South Korea last month. Picture: REUTERS/FILE

SEOUL – North Korea on Wednesday threw into question an unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump scheduled for next month, denouncing military exercises between South Korea and the United States as a provocation and calling off high-level talks with Seoul. A report on North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency angrily attacked the “Max Thunder” air combat drills, which it said involved US stealth fighters and B-52 bombers, and appeared to mark a break in months of warming ties between North and South Korea and between Pyongyang and Washington.

Any cancellation of the June 12 summit in Singapore, the first meeting between a serving US president and a North Korean leader, would deal a major blow to Mr Trump’s efforts to score the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency.

Trump has raised expectations for a successful meeting even as many analysts have been sceptical of the chances of bridging the gap due to questions about North Korea’s willingness to give up a nuclear arsenal that now threatens the United States. The KCNA report called the air drills a “provocation” that went against the trend of warming ties.

“This exercise, targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” KCNA said, referring to a joint statement from an April 27 inter-Korea summit.

“The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities,” KCNA said.

A Trump-Kim summit until recently had looked impossible given the insults and threats the two leaders exchanged last year over North Korea’s development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.