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North Korea threatens to resume missile tests over US-South Korea military drills

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meeting at their second summit in Hanoi, Feb. 27, 2019. (White House/Released)
July 16, 2019

North Korea has suggested it will lift a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing if the U.S. and South Korea move forward with military drills over the summer.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that such drills would have an impact on any upcoming talks between D.C. and Pyongyang, and it issued a warning that it would wait to see if the U.S. and South Korea move forward with the drills.

“With the U.S. unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the U.S. as well,” said the statement, which was released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Associated Press reported.

North Korea has long viewed such military drills as rehearsal for war and an invasion of the Korean Peninsula.

While diplomatic talks had been stalled, the situation with North Korea had looked hopeful after President Donald Trump orchestrated a last-minute meeting with dictator Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the North and South. He even became the first sitting U.S. President to step over the border into North Korea. The two met at the end of the June, after Trump had attended the Group of 20 Summit.

There were also reportedly negotiations underway for a third Trump-Kim summit.

Prior to their unplanned meeting at the DMZ, Trump and Kim had held two summits. While Trump has said he has a good relationship with Kim Jong Un, and that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is still the ultimate goal, Kim has said that the U.S. should lift some economic sanctions if it wants to make progress.

In May, the Pentagon suspended its plans to recover any U.S. troops’ remains in North Korea, this after nuclear talks came to a standstill and there was a lack of communication on North Korea’s part. Diplomatic talks had been stalled or made little progress across the board, including on the topic of denuclearization.

North Korea had also test-fired short-range missiles, two tests within one week alone, and the U.S. had seized a North Korean coal ship found to be in violation of U.S. sanctions.

While North Korea hasn’t conducted any major missile tests – this after firing three intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in November 2017 – there have been reports that North Korea is still trying to bolster its nuclear arsenal and is secretly continuing to develop its nuclear program. There have also been reports that North Korea has an ICBM that can hit “anywhere” in the United States.