Just ten hours before today's scheduled talks with South Korea, North Korea pulled out of the high-level inter-Korean meeting, citing Seoul's ongoing military exercises with the U.S. as the reason for the abrupt cancellation.
It's in stark contrast to what the regime has been saying in regards to joint military exercises in recent weeks, when it seemed to be. more understanding.
Watching this rapid and unexpected shift in mood on the Korean peninsula, is our Unification Ministry correspondent Oh Jung-hee who is on the line for us.
Jung-hee, it looks like North Korea might be going back to its tried and tested bargaining tactics?
I first have to tell you that North Korea’s foreign affairs ministry issued a statement roughly 30 minutes ago and declared that it will have to reconsider holding summit talks with the U.S.
The North is saying it's skeptical about whether Washington is willing to solve the nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation citing recent remarks from the Trump administration about dismantlement of not only nuclear weapons but also missiles and biological, chemical weapons.
I will make sure to have more details on this for our next newscast.
Let's go back to the cancellation statement from the North last night.
Not only did the North notify South Korea of the cancellation via the inter-Korean contact channel but Pyongyang also posted a lengthy statement through its state media.
It explained it could not help but call off today's high-level talks, specifically because of the Max Thunder exercise -- a combined air force drill between South Korea and the U.S. that started last Friday.
Saying that the drills are to (quote)"make a preemptive air strike and win the air," Pyongyang called the exercise an apparent challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation.
The North stated that South Korea is breaking the two Koreas' promise to lower military tensions and therefore, Seoul is to blame for the cancellation.
Pyongyang warned the improvement in inter-Korean relations and its dialogue momentum with the U.S. doesn't mean Seoul and Washington can hold their combined drills anytime.
What's worrisome is that Pyongyang even left open the possibility of cancelling its summit with the U.S., saying Washington will have to consider the fate of their summit as well.
A complete shift in tone from North Korea indeed, and what are we hearing from the South Korean government?
Yes, the government issued an official response this morning.
Take a look at what Seoul's unification ministry spokesperson had to say:
"North Korea made a unilateral decision to postpone the high-level talks right after notifying us of the date, citing our regular joint Air Force drills with the U.S. We express regret as this action does not correspond to the fundamental principles and objectives of the Panmunjom Declaration."
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Adding that Seoul still dedicated to fully carrying out the summit agreement, the government urged the North to quickly respond for its call for talks.
South Korea stressed that dialogue has to continue anyway to discuss the issues Pyongyang is raising now.
Seoul says it plans to send a message to North Korea today, though what it will say remains to be seen.
According to the ministry, during the groundwork for today's now-canceled high-level talks, the North did not raise any objections to the Max Thunder exercise or the Seoul-Washington drills in general.
On his way to work this morning, South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told reporters that he doesn't believe the North's move poses fundamental difficulties in implementing the Panmunjom Declaration.
He added everything is in the early stages and different circumstances can present themselves so it's important for the two Koreas to stay consistent.
This has been Oh Jung-hee, reporting from Seoul's Unification Ministry.