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North Korea cancels high-level inter-Korean talks, citing S. Korea-U.S. joint drills Updated: 2018-05-16 07:06:41 KST

We start this morning with the abrupt cancellation from North Korea.
Just ten hours before today's scheduled talks with the South, North Korea pulled-out of the high-level inter-Korean meeting, saying Seoul's ongoing military exercises with the U.S. were ruining the diplomatic mood.
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.
It's laying the blame at South Korea's feet for its joint drills with the U.S.
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 appears North Korea might be going back to its tried and tested bargaining tactics?

Semin,
Not only did the North notify South Korea of the cancellation via the inter-Korean contact channel but Pyongyang also posted a very long 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.
Pyongyang called the drill 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, do we have anything from the South Korean government on what would've been the first inter-Korean interaction following last month's big summit?.

It's known that South Korean officials were indeed surprised and perplexed because, as you've mentioned, the North has not brought up the joint drills as an issue until now.
Also, it was just yesterday that Pyongyang suggested holding high-level talks today which was already days after the Max Thunder exercises kicked off.
On his way to work this morning, South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told reporters that the government will try to read North Korea's message thoroughly and will send a reply to Pyongyang soon although what it will say remains to be seen.
Asked whether the North's move poses fundamental difficulties in implementing the Panmunjom Declaration, the minister said he doesn't believe so.
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.
The South Korean government issued an official response just a few minutes ago, so I'll make sure to bring you the details in our next newscast.

Meanwhile, it's known the White House convened a meeting after the North's announcement and plans to reveal its stance soon.
The U.S. State Department spokesperson said this announcement from Pyongyang won't have any impact on preparing for the Pyongyang-Washington summit next month and the U.S. won't be wavered.
She added North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has rather said he understands the importance of the joint drills for South Korea and the U.S.
The Pentagon also stated that the drills are purely defensive in nature.
Semin.
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