Seoul, May 16 (AP/UNB) — South Korea says North Korea's move to cancel a high-level meeting at the last-minute over regular allied military drills was "regrettable" and demanded the North's quick return to talks.
Seoul's Unification Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun said Wednesday that the North's decision goes against the spirit of last month's inter-Korean summit, where the Koreas' leaders issued a vague vow on the "complete denuclearization" on the Korean Peninsula and pledged permanent peace between the rivals.
Baek didn't provide a straightforward answer when asked whether Seoul sees the North's move as potentially affecting the planned summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump over the North's nuclear weapons program.
The Pentagon says the military exercise that prompted North Korea to cancel a high-level meeting with South Korea on Wednesday and threatens a planned summit with the U.S. next month is a routine, annual event that is purely defensive in nature.
Army Col. Rob Manning says Exercise Max Thunder 2018 is designed to improve the abilities of the U.S. and South Korea to operate together. It began on Monday and is slated to run through May 25, and is expected to include aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, as it has in the past.
Last year it included as many as 1,200 U.S. personnel and about 640 South Koreans as well as various aircraft including F-16 fighter jets, F-18 Hornets and EA-18G Growlers from the Navy's electronic attack squadron.
Manning says the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed.