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(2nd LD) N. Korea cancels high-level talks with S. Korea, threatens to nix U.S. summit

04:49 May 16, 2018

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead para; UPDATES with more details; ADDS graphic image)

SEOUL, May 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Wednesday it is canceling high-level talks with South Korea and threatened to pull out of a summit with the United States over the allies' ongoing military exercises.

The North's Korean Central News Agency said the Max Thunder drills between the South Korean and U.S. air forces are a rehearsal for invasion of the North and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties.

It also called into question whether next month's summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump can go ahead as planned.

This graphic image shows (from L to R): North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)

"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 development on the Korean Peninsula," the KCNA report said. "We have no choice but to suspend the North-South high-level talks planned for the 16th amid this menacing situation where an indiscriminate ruckus to invade the North and a confrontational mayhem are occurring in the South."

To the U.S., it said: "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."

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

The high-level talks were meant to take place Wednesday on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom to discuss follow-up measures to the two Korean leaders' summit last month.

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.

The two leaders -- 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.

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

South Korea and the U.S. will be making a serious mistake if they believe they can get away with their "war rehearsals" in light of the North's recent efforts to improve relations with the South and hold talks with the U.S., it warned.

"There is a limit to the amount of good will and opportunity (we) can give," the report said. "We will be keenly watching the future behavior of the U.S. and South Korean authorities."

Seoul's unification ministry said it was informed of the meeting's "indefinite postponement" at 0:30 a.m., 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.
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