North Korea has threatened to abandon planned talks between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump in June if Washington insists on pushing it "into a corner" on nuclear disarmament.
A statement published by the state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said North Korea would never accept economic assistance from the U.S. in exchange for unilaterally abandoning its nuclear program.
Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea’s First Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted in the article as saying "the U.S. is talking about giving us economic rewards and benefits when we give up nuclear weapons."
"We have never built our economy expecting things from the U.S. and will never do such a deal in the future," he added.
If the Trump administration was "genuinely committed" to improving ties with Pyongyang, "they will receive a deserving response," Kim said. "But if they try to push us into a corner and force only unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in that kind of talks and will have to reconsider … the upcoming summit."
Inter-Korean talks suspended
After weeks of improving ties on the Korean Peninsula, capped by the dramatic image of Kim shaking hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, things took a sudden step backward Wednesday.
In a missive delivered to the South in the early hours of the morning, the North said it was suspending high-level talks scheduled for Wednesday in view of "provocative military disturbances with South Korea."
North Korea’s anger, which took both Seoul and Washington off guard, came as the two allies were conducting annual "Max Thunder" air force drills, which Pyongyang has always objected to in the past and accused of destabilizing the situation on the Peninsula.
In a statement, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it was regrettable that the North unilaterally postponed the talks due to the annual (South Korea-US) joint air combat drills."
"Such action by the North is inconsistent with the fundamental spirit and purpose of the Panmunjeom Declaration agreed by the South and North leaders on April 27," it added.
An earlier KCNA report said the Max Thunder 2018 air combat drill was against the declaration — signed last month between the Koreas — wherein they agreed to cease all hostile acts against each other.
Back in March, when South Korea’s national security adviser told reporters at the White House that Kim had invited Trump to meet, he also said that Kim "understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue."
In the Unification Ministry statement, Seoul pledged to continue pursuing "necessary measures through close consultations with relevant ministries to achieve sustainable development of inter-Korean relations and a permanent peace settlement through the implementation of the Panmunjeom Declaration."