China has urged North Korea not to cancel the upcoming summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.
The historic first meeting between the leaders is set to take place 12 June in Singapore. Concerns arose after Pyongyang announced it was suspending follow-up peace talks with South Korean president Moon Jae-in that were scheduled for today citing that the ongoing US-South Korea military exercises were a provocation, according to the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Chinese president Xi Jinping said to state broadcaster CCTV: “We support the improvement of North-South (Korean) relations, the promotion of dialogue between North Korea and the US, denuclearisation on the peninsula, and North Korea’s development of its economy.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said China hopes the summit produces substantial outcomes…Only in this way can we consolidate the alleviation of the situation and maintain peace and stability in the region. Mr Trump plans to discuss North Korea halting developing its nuclear weapons programme.
“The president is ready if the meeting takes place. If it doesn’t, we’ll continue the maximum pressure campaign that’s been ongoing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Fox News in the wake of North Koreas comments.
She said it was “not something that is out of the ordinary in these types of operations, adding that the president is fully prepared and fully ready for the meeting.
KCNA said the so-called Max Thunder drills, being conducted from 14 to 25 May, between the South Korean and US Air Force were simply a rehearsal for [an] invasion of the North and a provocation amid warming inter-Korean ties.
This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula, KCNA said.
The [US] 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 US military said in a statement that this years drills are routine and defensive in nature.
Mr Xi, who was meeting with North Koreas ruling party at the time of his comments, has met with Mr Kim twice in the last month in what experts have said is a way of ensuring Chinese interests are on the agenda during the summit with Mr Trump. Recently, Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE was penalised by the US Commerce Department for violating American sanctions by selling goods made with US components to North Korea.
However, Mr Trump stepped in and said he would work with Mr Xi to ensure jobs are brought back to ZTE that were lost as a result of losing access to the American market.
China and North Korea appear to have a fraught relationship – Pyongyang has long relied on it and Russia for basic economic needs along with a small number of other allies. However, Chinas recent enforcement of strict United Nations sanctions on seafood, textiles, foreign exchange services, and fuel are believed to have hurt Mr Kims hermit kingdom.