SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Koreaâ€™s supreme decision-making body lashed out Wednesday at planned U.S.-South Korean military drills and warned that the United States will face a greater threat and harsh suffering if it ignores North Korean leader Kim Jong Unâ€™s end-of-year deadline to salvage nuclear talks.
In a statement carried by state media, an unidentified spokesman for the Northâ€™s State Affairs Commission said the drills would violate agreements between Kim and President Donald Trump on improving bilateral relations and compel North Korea to raise its war readiness.
Kim is chairman of the commission, which he established in 2016 following years of efforts to consolidate his power and centralize governance.
The statement is North Koreaâ€™s latest expression of displeasure over the military drills and slow pace of nuclear negotiations with Washington. The talks have stalled over disagreements on disarmament steps and the removal of sanctions imposed on the North.
North Korea has also ramped up its missile tests in recent months and experts say it is likely to continue weapons displays to pressure Washington as Kimâ€™s deadline nears for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal.
Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s private Sejong Institute, said the Northâ€™s decision to release a statement through its highest government institution indicates that it could be preparing more provocative military demonstrations, such as ballistic tests from a new launch-capable submarine it has been developing.
The North Korean spokesman said annual U.S.-South Korea military drills are continuing to cause a â€œvicious cycleâ€ in relations between the U.S. and North Korea.
â€œThe U.S. had better behave itself with prudence at a sensitive time when the situation on the Korean Peninsula could go back to the starting point due to the joint military drills,â€ the statement said.
The United States â€œwill face greater threat and be forced to admit its failure, being put into trouble before long if it doesn’t do anything to change the trend of the present situation,â€ it said.
The spokesman said North Korea has treated the United States sincerely as a dialogue partner and â€œhalted different actions that the U.S. was concerned about,â€ apparently referring its suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests, which allowed Trump to claim a foreign policy win. The spokesman said North Korea feels betrayed by what it sees as a lack of corresponding measures by the United States.
â€œWe, without being given anything, gave things the U.S. president can brag about but the U.S. side has not yet taken any corresponding step,â€ the statement said. â€œNow, betrayal is only what we feel from the U.S. side.â€
Last week, senior North Korean diplomat Kwon Jong Gun said a joint aerial exercise planned by the U.S. and South Korea in coming weeks amounted to “throwing a wet blanket over the spark” of nuclear negotiations that are “on the verge of extinction.” Kwon said North Koreaâ€™s patience was nearing its limit and that it will â€œnever remain an onlooker” to “reckless military moves.”
Since the start of the nuclear talks last year, the United States and South Korea have canceled or scaled back their regular military drills to create space for diplomacy. But North Korea says the smaller drills are still a rehearsal for an invasion and has reacted strongly to the exercises during stalemates in the negotiations.
The talks have faltered since the collapse of a February summit between Trump and Kim in Vietnam, where the Americans rejected North Koreaâ€™s demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for the partial surrendering of its nuclear capabilities.
North Korea responded with intensified testing activity and Kim said he would “wait with patience until the end of the year for the United States to come up with a courageous decision.” Kim has also said that North Korea would seek a â€œnew wayâ€ if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure.