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Saturday August 18th, 2018 8:05PM

The Latest: Japan defends US-S. Korea military drills

By The Associated Press
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The Latest on North Korea's threat to cancel the summit with the United States (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

A senior Japanese official says Tokyo considers the U.S.-South Korea joint exercise, along with those between the three allies, as key pillars of deterrence in the region.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura says Japan is moving ahead with the preparation for planned talks between the North's leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump in hopes they would provide a momentum toward comprehensively resolving North Korea's problems.

Nishimura says Japan will continue to cooperate with the U.S. and South Korea and they agree on the need to maintain sanctions until the North changes its current policy.

He says: "We believe that steady implementation of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise is important to maintain the regional peace and safety."

North Korea has canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea on Wednesday over U.S.-South Korean military drills and says it has no interest in the summit with Trump if it's going to be a "one-sided" affair where it's pressured to give up its nukes.

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12:10 p.m.

South Korea's Defense Ministry says the military exercises between Washington and Seoul will go on despite an angry reaction from North Korea that broke off a high-level meeting between the Koreas.

The ministry's spokeswoman Choi Hyunsoo said Wednesday the Max Thunder drills are chiefly about improving the skills of pilots and aren't attack exercises.

The drills, which began Monday and reportedly include some 100 aircraft, will continue through May 25.

The North has long denounced the military exercises between the rivals as invasion rehearsals.

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11:55 a.m.

North Korea's first vice foreign minister says the country has no interest in a summit with the United States if it's going to be a "one-sided" affair where it's pressured to give up its nukes.

The statement by Kim Kye Gwan on Wednesday came hours after the North abruptly canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea and threatened to do the same with a planned summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump next month.

Kim Kye Gwan criticized recent comments by Trump's top security adviser John Bolton and other U.S. officials who have been talking about how the North should follow the "Libyan model" of nuclear disarmament and provide a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement."

He also criticized other U.S. comments that the North should completely abandon not only its nukes and missiles but also its biological and chemical weapons.

Kim says: "We will appropriately respond to the Trump administration if it approaches the North Korea-U.S. summit meeting with a truthful intent to improve relations."

He adds: "But we are no longer interested in a negotiation that will be all about driving us into a corner and making a one-sided demand for us to give up our nukes and this would force us to reconsider whether we would accept the North Korea-U.S. summit meeting."

Some analysts say bringing up Libya, which dismantled its rudimentary nuclear program in the 2000s in exchange for sanctions relief, would risk derailing any progress in negotiations with the North

Kim Jong Un took power weeks after former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's gruesome death at the hands of rebel forces amid a popular uprising in October 2011. The North has frequently used Gadhafi's death to justify its own nuclear development in the face of perceived U.S. threats.

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10:50 a.m.

South Korea says North Korea's move to cancel a high-level meeting at the last-minute over regular allied military drills was "regrettable" and demanded the North's quick return to talks.

Seoul's Unification Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun said Wednesday that the North's decision goes against the spirit of last month's inter-Korean summit, where the Koreas' leaders issued a vague vow on the "complete denuclearization" on the Korean Peninsula and pledged permanent peace between the rivals.

Baek didn't provide a straightforward answer when asked whether Seoul sees the North's move as potentially affecting the planned summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump over the North's nuclear weapons program.

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5:55 a.m.

The Pentagon says the military exercise that prompted North Korea to cancel a high-level meeting with South Korea on Wednesday and threatens a planned summit with the U.S. next month is a routine, annual event that is purely defensive in nature.

Army Col. Rob Manning says Exercise Max Thunder 2018 is designed to improve the abilities of the U.S. and South Korea to operate together. It began on Monday and is slated to run through May 25, and is expected to include aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, as it has in the past.

Last year it included as many as 1,200 U.S. personnel and about 640 South Koreans as well as various aircraft including F-16 fighter jets, F-18 Hornets and EA-18G Growlers from the Navy's electronic attack squadron.

Manning says the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed.

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4:50 a.m.

The United States says it is going ahead with plans for the meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department says the U.S. has not heard anything directly from Pyongyang or Seoul that would change that. Her comment came shortly after South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported that the North was threatening to cancel the summit because of ongoing military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says Kim had previously indicated he understood the need and purpose of the U.S. continuing its long-planned joint exercises with South Korea.

Yonhap says the two-week military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea started Friday and included about 100 warplanes.

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4:20 a.m.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency says North Korea is canceling a high-level meeting between the two countries and is threatening also to cancel a summit with the United States due to ongoing military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.

The two Koreas were set to hold a meeting Wednesday at a border village to discuss setting up military and Red Cross talks to reduce border tension and restart reunions between families separated by the Korean War.

Yonhap says North Korea's Korean Central News Agency reported that Wednesday's meeting was canceled and that Pyongyang was questioning whether next month's summit between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump can also take place as planned.

Yonhap says the two-week military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea started Friday.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP World News
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