The United States said Tuesday that it will continue to prepare for the meeting between President Donald Trump and the top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong Un, despite a warning from Pyongyang to withdraw from the talk.
The DPRK's state media said early Wednesday that Pyongyang would suspend high-level talks with South Korea infinitely and threatened to withdraw from a scheduled meeting with the United States over an ongoing U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the joint military drill that started on May 11 is provocative.
Later, a senior DPRK foreign ministry official said in a statement carried by the KCNA that if the United States insists on pressuring the DPRK to abandon its nuclear arsenal in its dialogue with Pyongyang, the DPRK is not interested and has to reconsider the meeting in the near future.
In a press briefing, U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the United States will "absolutely" continue to "go ahead and plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un" slated for June 12 in Singapore.
She also noted that the U.S. side needs to verify the KCNA's report and "get additional information on that."
"But we're going forward in planning our meetings next month," she said. "We are operating under the idea and the notion that the president's meeting is going forward with Chairman -- with Chairman Kim next month."
"We've seen some pretty good indications from them so far," she said, citing the DPRK's release of three American detainees last week. "So they have taken some steps in the right direction ... I think those are all good signs."
Nauert said Washington has not heard of anything from the DPRK or South Korea to cancel the military exercises or the Kim-Trump meeting.
"What we have to go on is what Kim Jong Un had said before, that he understands and appreciates the importance to the United States of having these joint exercises, the Republic of Korea has as well," she said. "We've received no formal or even informal notification of anything."
Later, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders also made an announcement.
"We are aware of the South Korean media report. The United States will look at what North Korea (DPRK) has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies," she added.
Trump tweeted last week that he will meet with Kim in June, after the country released three detained U.S. citizens who had been taken back by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to Pyongyang.
"The South Korean authorities, together with the United States, has been staging the largest-ever '2018 Max Thunder' joint air drill throughout South Korea since May 11 in a bid to make a preemptive air strike at the DPRK and win the air," the KCNA said.
"The United States will have to think twice about the fate of the DPRK-U.S. summit now on a high agenda before a provocative military racket against the DPRK in league with the South Korean authorities," it said.
The two-week drill involves over 100 aircraft including B-52 strategic nuclear bombers and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters.
"It is stunning that the DPRK canceled the meeting with South Korea. It is an ominous development because it signals some breakdown in discussions between the two countries," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
"It is important that this situation not escalate quickly and end up in a much more serious disagreement," he added.