S.Korea expresses regrets over DPRK's suspension of high-level talks
South Korea on Wednesday expressed regrets over the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s decision to suspend the scheduled high-level inter-Korean talks.
Seoul's unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said in a statement that it was regrettable for the DPRK to unilaterally delay the senior-level inter-Korean dialogue, which the two sides agreed to hold on Wednesday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, listens to South Korean President Moon Jae-in while walking together at the Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone Friday, April 27, 2018. [File photo: AP]
The statement said the unilateral delay was against the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration, which was announced on April 27 after the third inter-Korean summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un.
The DPRK agreed Tuesday to hold high-level talks with South Korea Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss ways to enforce the Panmunjom Declaration, but it suspended the talks before dawn citing the ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint air maneuvers.
The two-week "Max Thunder" joint air combat exercise kicked off on May 11, mobilizing about 100 aircrafts including eight F-22 stealth fighter jets as well as F-15Ks and F-16s.
The DPRK's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that "F-22 Raptor" radar-evading warplanes and "B-52" strategic bombers, mobilized to the South Korea-U.S. joint annual air drills, are aimed at launching pre-emptive strikes against the DPRK as well as taking control of the airspace.
The Korean version of the KCNA report called the drill an act of "playing with fire," saying that it is a "blatant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula."
Seoul's defense ministry said in a statement that the joint South Korea-U.S. air drills will be conducted as scheduled as the exercises are just aimed at improving pilot's capability, not at exercising operation plans for attack.
It said the F-22 stealth fighters came to South Korea last year. But it was unusual for such a high number of F-22 Raptors to be mobilized amid thawing ties between the two Koreas.
The South Korean unification ministry said the government had a firm will to sincerely implement the Panmunjom Declaration, urging the DPRK to rapidly come to the dialogue table for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
To develop sustainable inter-Korean relations and build permanent peace via the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration, the South Korean government will take necessary measures through close consultations among relevant ministries, the statement said.