Korean Peninsula heats up again: Japan, S Korea back US-led drills despite North’s anger
The ambience of fraternity in the Korean Peninsula was hit by a sudden rage of the North Koreans as they cancelled a high-level meeting with the South on Wednesday, May 16, and also threatened to scrap the summit between their leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump scheduled on June 12 as a protest against the continuation of US-led drills with South Korea in the peninsula.
But North Korea's protest did not find universal support as Japan backed the drills as well as joint exercises between Tokyo, Washington and Seoul as a necessary deterrence against Pyongyang. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also expressed his preference over continuing pressure over North Korea during the triangular summit held recently in Tokyo also featuring Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Japan's Deputy Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said Japan was going ahead with the preparation for the Kim-Trump summit hoping they would give a momentum towards a comprehensive solution of the North Korean problem, Associated Press reported. Nishimura said Japan would continue to work together with the US and South Korea and they have a consensus on maintaining sanctions on North Korea until Pyongyang changed its policy, the report added.
South Korea's defence officials also backed the military drills with the US saying they would continue despite North Korea's angry reaction, the AP report added. South Korea's defence ministry clarified that the Max Thunder drills between Washington and Seoul were aimed at improving the skills of the pilots and not meant to be attack exercises. The aircraft-intensive drills began on Monday, May 14, and would continue till May 25.
Earlier on Wednesday, North Korea's first vice minister of the foreign ministry Kim Kye Gwan said North Korea had little interest in the summit with the US if it continued to be a "one-sided" affair whereby Pyongyang is pressured to give up the nukes. Gwan's statement came hours after Pyongyang suddenly scrapped the high-level meeting which was supposed to look into the execution of a number of pro-peace initiatives between the two Koreas.
He also slammed the US for advising North to follow the "Libyan model" of nuclear disarmament of 2003. The North Koreans were also reportedly unhappy over the US asking them to not only abandon its nukes and missiles but also biological and chemical weapons, the AP report said.