SEOUL, South Korea -- Only 16 days after President Donald Trump set foot in North Korea to try to restart nuclear talks with its leader, North Korea escalated its pressure on the United States to cancel a planned joint military drill with South Korea.
The regime warned Tuesday that the exercise could scuttle efforts to resume dialogue with Washington and even prompt the North to resume nuclear and long-range missile tests.
The vaguely worded threats were contained in two statements Tuesday from the North Korean Foreign Ministry that complained about the military drill, called 19-2 Dong Maeng.
The North said the planned exercise undermined a mood for dialogue created when its leader, Kim Jong Un, met with Trump at Panmunjom, a village on the inter-Korean border, on June 30. In the hurriedly arranged meeting, the two leaders agreed to restart working-level talks on the terms of denuclearizing North Korea.
On Tuesday, North Korea warned that if the joint military drill takes place in August, it "will affect" efforts to resume dialogue. At Panmunjom, Trump said dialogue could resume in two or three weeks. But the North on Tuesday appeared to link the resumption of such talks to the cancellation of the military drill.
"We will make a decision regarding working-level talks with the United States while watching U.S. moves going forward," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
For decades, North Korea has campaigned to stop the joint military exercises, calling them rehearsals for invasion.
In April 2018, Kim announced a halt to his country's nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, paving the way for his first meeting with Trump, held in Singapore in June 2018.
After the meeting, Trump vowed to halt major joint military drills with South Korea. But the South Korean and U.S. militaries have agreed to hold smaller and reconfigured joint drills, and 19-2 Dong Maeng is one of them.
North Korea said Tuesday that the new drill would "violate the spirit" of the Singapore agreement. It even indicated that its decision to suspend nuclear and ICBM tests was contingent on the absence of the joint military drills.
"As the U.S. is unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our rationale to stay in the commitments we made with the U.S.," the North said. It noted that neither Washington's vow to cancel major exercises nor its moratorium on nuclear and missile tests was a legally binding commitment "inscribed in paper."
The Singapore meeting ended with a vague agreement in which Trump committed to build "new" relations and provide security guarantees for North Korea in return for Kim's agreement to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
But when Kim and Trump met again in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February, they failed to agree on how to implement their earlier deal.
The Hanoi talks collapsed when Kim demanded that Washington lift all major sanctions against his country in return for the dismantling of the nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, the capital. Trump insisted on a more comprehensive breaking up of the North's nuclear programs, including its nuclear weapons and missiles.
Despite the failure in Hanoi, both Kim and Trump have spoken of their mutual "friendship" and willingness to engage in diplomacy. In their meeting on the inter-Korean border last month, they agreed to resume working-level dialogue to help narrow the wide differences between their governments.
But such talks have yet to take place. By issuing a vague threat to resume nuclear and missile tests, North Korea appeared to put pressure on Washington even before bilateral talks resumed.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry's statements came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged North Korea to change its demands while reconfirming Washington's goal of achieving the "final fully verifiable denuclearization" of North Korea.
"I hope the North Koreans will come to the table with ideas that they didn't have the first time," Pompeo said in an interview Monday on The Sean Hannity Show on Fox News.
"We hope we can be a little more creative, too," Pompeo said. "The president's mission hasn't changed: to fully and finally denuclearize North Korea in a way that we can verify."
A Section on 07/17/2019
Print Headline: N. Korea warns U.S. on joint drill