by WorldTribune Staff, May 16, 2018
As U.S. F-22 stealth fighters joined the Max Thunder exercises in South Korea, North Korea announced it was cancelling talks with the South and reconsidering the upcoming meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.
North Korea claims the Max Thunder drill between the U.S. and South Korean air forces is the cause of its decision to cancel high-level talks with the South that were set for this week.
For Max Thunder 2018, which started May 11 and continues for two weeks, the U.S. for the first time in the drill’s history deployed eight of its F-22 Raptor stealth fighters.
The U.S. military said the F-22 Raptors can penetrate North Korea’s radar fence and make surgical strikes against strategic facilities, the Korea Times said in a May 16 report.
Meanwhile, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye-Gwan on May 15 warned that Pyongyang was not interested in talks that would pressure Pyongyang to “unilaterally” give up its nuclear program, taking aim at “unbridled remarks” by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and other high-ranking White House officials.
Kim Kye-Gwan cited Bolton’s references to the so-called Libya model of nuclear abandonment and his statements on “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency [KCNA] reported.
“This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue. It is essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister moves to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had [sic] been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers,” the deputy foreign minister said.
Related: Bolton and the plight of de-nuked dictators: Will Kim share Gadhafi’s fate?, May 4, 2018
North Korea analysts have said the brutal death of Gadhafi may be foremost on Kim Jong-Un’s mind ahead of talks on denuclearization.
In 2003, North Korea refused to participate in multilateral talks if Bolton was present after he referred to then leader Kim Jong-Il as a “tyrannical dictator.”
“We do not hide our feelings of repugnance towards him,” said Kim Kye-Gwan.
After North Korea cited the Max Thunder drill as the cause of its cancellation of the high-level inter-Korean meeting, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-Moo and U.S. Forces Korea Commander Vincent Brooks had an emergency meeting in which they decided to carry out the exercises as planned.
“The exercises will be conducted as planned, and there is no different opinion about this between the allies,” the Ministry of Defense said in a notice to reporters. “Max Thunder is a training drill to improve pilots’ skills. It is not an offensive drill.”
The White House on May 15 said it is “still hopeful” the summit between Kim Jong-Un and Trump will proceed.
“We’re still hopeful that the meeting will take place and we’ll continue down that path,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News. “At the same time … we’ve been prepared that these might be tough negotiations. The president is ready if the meeting takes place. And if it doesn’t, we will continue the maximum pressure campaign that has been ongoing.”