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    North Korea cancels talks with South Korea and issues warning to United States

    North Korea cancels talks with South Korea and issues warning to United States --

    In mid-May 2018, North Korea cancelled high level talks with South Korea due to outrage over joint military drills between the South and the United States. North Korea's official KCNA news agency condemned the exercises as a "provocation" and accused the two countries of preparing for an invasion.

    On the heels of the historic inter-Korean summit held on April 27, 2018, there were to be continuing high level negotiations between the two Koreas.  These follow up talks were to be held in mid-May 2018 and were to take place at the Panmunjom military compound in the demilitarized zone between the two countries. On the agenda were matters such as a peace treaty between the two countries, a plan to end "hostile activities" in the region, and a plan for a Korean peninsula without nuclear weapons.  But the  military exercises, known as Max Thunder and including as many as 100 warplanes, appeared to have derailed that meeting. 

    It should be noted that South Korea insisted that the military exercises were routine and intended for defense purposes. 

    North Korea also warned the United States about the highly-anticipated summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, which was scheduled to be held on June 12, 2018 in Singapore.  North Korea's official KCNA news agency issued the following statement: "The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities."

    The tone of that statement indicated a warning and not an outright cancellation.  However, North Korea followed up with a more pressing message as it threatened to cancel the summit if the United States demanded that Pyongyang relinquish its nuclear weapons. 

    For its part, the United States Department of State made clear that it was unaware of any changes and continued to  prepare for the Trump-Kim summit.

    That being said, these moves by the North suggested that conventional wisdom about Pyongyang coming to the negotiating table in order to secure sanctions relief economic aid may not be the animating impulse  of Kim Jong-un.  Instead, the North Korean leader was looking for international cachet.  As noted by Jeffrey Lewis, the founder of Arms Control Wonk and the Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies: "Kim isn’t offering to disarm, he’s offering conditions under which we can accept his bomb."

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