A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson criticized the upcoming South Korea-U.S. joint military drill by saying the “19-2 Dong Maeng drill will affect working-level talks between North Korea and the U.S.” The spokesperson went on to say that U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to halt ROK-U.S. joint military exercises at the Singapore summit and confirmed it again at (last month’s) Panmunjom meeting. North Korea even threatened to resume nuclear and missile tests not to mention the suspension of working-level talks if South Korea and the U.S. go ahead with the planned military drill.
The “19-2 Dong Maeng” joint military exercise North Korea referred to is a crisis management exercise led by the South Korean military. The drill, which replaces the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFC) scrapped last year, is a usual training that focuses on defense. It is absurd for North Korea to find faults with a training that is aimed at verifying our military capability for the transition of wartime operational control. At the Panmunjom meeting on June 30, the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea agreed to resume working-level talks in two to three days. It has been over two weeks but the exact date of working-level talks has yet to be set, and North Korea has decided to make threats once again even when the U.S. let North Korea pick the place for the talks. It appears Pyongyang is trying to start a war of nerves after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hopes that “the North Koreans will come to the table with ideas that they didn’t have the first time.”
North Korea is shifting blame on the U.S. in order to set suspension of ROK-U.S. joint military drills as a precondition to the resumption of its working-level talks with the U.S. It is Pyongyang’s strategy to win concessions before resuming the talks. Some experts say it is a proof that North Korea is not ready to come to the negotiating table since it has changed the staff and strategies after the breakdown of the Hanoi summit on February 28.
In the meanwhile, South Korea and the U.S. dismissed North Korea’s demand, saying that the joint military drill will take place as planned. But it should not be overlooked if there is a hint that North Korea is trying to suspend ROK-U.S. joint military exercises by directly negotiating with the U.S. The North aims to prevent the South from keeping it in check by trying to decide all the important issues in working-level talks with the U.S. It also needs to be confirmed if U.S. President Trump actually promised to suspend joint military exercises at the Panmunjom meeting as North Korea is claiming. South Korea and the U.S. should cooperate more closely and exchange intelligence in order to prevent North Korea from making unreasonable demands.