|U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un pose during their third summit in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30. Yonhap|
By Jung Da-min
Working-level denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea are likely to be delayed.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday (local time) during a meeting that he is in no hurry to make progress in the denuclearization talks and time is "not of the essence."
Trump had said the working-level talks would be resumed in the next few weeks, when he met North's leader Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on June 30.
"And at some point ― I'm in absolutely no hurry ― but at some point, I think we can probably do something that would be very good for them and very good everybody and for the world," Trump said. "And, again, time is not of the essence, but I think good things will ultimately happen."
North Korea has not responded to Trump's remarks.
The North's foreign ministry, however, issued a statement on the same day, hours before the U.S. Cabinet meeting, against the planned U.S.-South Korea 19-2 Dong Maeng joint exercise scheduled for August.
The ministry called the drill "a breach of the commitment" made by Trump in two of his three meetings with Kim, including the June 2018 Singapore summit.
Diplomatic sources speculated the North's statement hints at reducing the possibility of the working-level talks in the near future.
The Pentagon has confirmed that the joint U.S.-South Korea command post exercise (CPX) will take place this fall.
"The Republic of Korea (ROK) and U.S. military forces are preparing to conduct a combined training program this fall. Working with the ROK, this training program has been adjusted to maintain readiness and support diplomatic efforts," CNN quoted Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, as saying.
The 19-2 Dong Maeng is a scaled-down joint exercise after Seoul and Washington decided earlier this year to suspend their larger-scale joint drill Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), usually held in August, to support diplomatic efforts for peace on the peninsula. Dong Maeng means alliance in Korean. The allies launched the Dong Maeng exercise in March, conducting the 19-1 Dong Maeng exercise in place of the larger-scale Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises, previously held in the first half of the year.
On the North's statement, South Korea's unification ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min said, Wednesday, that the ministry will be watching the North's further movements. Lee said the ministry hopes the working-level talks between the U.S. and the North would resume in the near future.
During the 19-2 Dong Maeng exercise, Seoul and Washington will be verifying the ROK military's capability to lead a combined defense before the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) to Seoul that is being accelerated.
"The routine combined training demonstrates the United States' commitment to the ROK-U.S. alliance and defense of the Korean peninsula through activities that enhance combined readiness," Eastburn said.
Meanwhile, the North's foreign ministry also condemned a four-day multinational maritime exercise of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) codenamed Eastern Endeavor 19, which took place in Busan last week from July 9 to 12. Countries in the Asia-Pacific region including the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand participated in the excersie aimed at fighting the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction.
The North's foreign ministry also condemned South Korea's recent deployment of state-of-the-art weaponry. On July 15, South Korea received two more F-35A stealth fighter jets made by the U.S. aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin, at a military base in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. It followed the arrival of South Korea's first two stealth jets in March. Four more of the stealth jets are expected to arrive next month while at most eight more will be arriving by the end of this year.