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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - A combination of two file photos shows U.S. President Donald Trump, left, in Cleveland, Ohio, May 5, 2018, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, in Panmunjom, South Korea, April 27, 2018. The June 12 meeting between tough-talking President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a brash young ruler with a nuclear arsenal, brings a bombastic set of personalities to the small island nation, which has hosted plenty of important meetings, but nothing as big as this. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Korea Summit Press Pool via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Wednesday canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea and threatened to scrap a historic summit next month between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over military exercises between Seoul and Washington that Pyongyang has long claimed are invasion rehearsals.

The declaration came in a pre-dawn dispatch in North Korea's state media. It's still unclear, however, whether the North intends to scuttle all diplomacy or merely wants to gain leverage ahead of the planned June 12 talks between Kim and Trump.

The statement was released hours before the two Koreas were to meet at a border village to discuss how to implement their leaders' recent agreements to reduce military tensions along their heavily fortified border and improve their overall ties.

The North's Korean Central News Agency called the two-week Max Thunder drills, which began Monday and reportedly include about 100 aircraft, an "intended military provocation" and an "apparent challenge" to an April summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, when the leaders met on their border in their countries' third-ever summit talks since their 1948 division.

"The United States must carefully contemplate the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit amid the provocative military ruckus that it's causing with South Korean authorities," the North said Wednesday. "We'll keenly monitor how the United States and South Korean authorities will react."

Annual military drills between Washington and Seoul have long been a major source of contention between the Koreas, and analysts have wondered whether their continuation would hurt the detente that, since an outreach by Kim in January, has replaced the insults and threats of war. Earlier — and much larger — springtime drills, which Washington and Seoul toned down, went off without the North's typically fiery condemnation or accompanying weapons tests.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department emphasized that Kim had previously indicated he understood the need and purpose of the U.S. continuing its long-planned exercises with South Korea. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. had not heard anything directly from Pyongyang or Seoul that would change that.

"We will continue to go ahead and plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un," Nauert said.

Army Col. Rob Manning said this current exercise is part of the U.S. and South Korea's "routine, annual training program to maintain a foundation of military readiness." Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said the purpose of Max Thunder and exercise Foal Eagle — another training event — is to enhance the two nations' abilities to operate together to defend South Korea.

"The defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed," said Manning.

Washington and Seoul delayed an earlier round of drills in the spring because of the North-South diplomacy surrounding February's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South, which saw Kim send his sister to the opening ceremonies.

Kim told visiting South Korean officials in March that he "understands" the drills would take place and expressed hope that they'll be modified once the situation on the peninsula stabilizes, according to the South Korean government.

South Korea didn't immediately make any official response to the North's announcement.

The North's statement Wednesday comes amid a slew of surprising moves from the North in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, South Korea's military said North Korea was moving ahead with plans to close its nuclear test site next week, an assessment backed by U.S. researchers who say satellite images show the North has begun dismantling facilities at the site.

The site's closure was set to come before the Kim-Trump summit.

Despite the North's moves, some experts were skeptical about whether Kim would completely give up a nuclear program that he had pushed so hard to build. Kim has expressed his intention to negotiate over his weapons, but he still uses a long-contentious term, "the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." The North previously has used this phrase when demanding that the United States pull its 28,500 troops out of South Korea and withdraw its so-called "nuclear umbrella" security guarantee to South Korea and Japan as a condition for its nuclear disarmament.

Wednesday's threat could also be targeted at showing a domestic audience that Kim is willing to stand up to Washington. Kim has repeatedly told his people that his nukes are a "powerful treasured sword" that can smash U.S. hostility.

North Korea also has a long history of launching provocations or scrapping deals with Seoul and Washington at the last minute.

In 2013, North Korea abruptly cancelled reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War just days before they were held to protest what it called rising animosities ahead of joint drills between Seoul and Washington. A year earlier in 2012, the North conducted a prohibited long-range rocket launch weeks after it agreed to suspend weapons tests in return for food assistances.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • TimberTopper
    May 15, 2018 at 3:38 p.m.

    He's has been giving and now wants the other side to give. Let's see if the great deal maker understands the concept.

  • condoleezza
    May 15, 2018 at 3:53 p.m.

    I am clutching my pearls of indignity like Paul Greenberg in a Colorado cannabis shop. Shocked, I tell you. Shocked!

  • RobertBolt
    May 15, 2018 at 4:03 p.m.

    Kim knows Trump really, really craves an accomplishment, so now Agent Orange is being freshly squeezed. What a pip! A regular Rindstone Cowboy in the bruised fruit section of international relations!

  • cliffcarson
    May 15, 2018 at 4:40 p.m.

    Conducting the exercises, after the gestures by Kim, was an "In your face" no doubt. It could be that the "In your face" advised Kim that if you deal with the U S your deal might be the next deal that Trump pulls out of. Or the next President.

    A deal between two people requires a commitment from each for the deal to bear fruit..

  • RBear
    May 15, 2018 at 4:56 p.m.

    Well, looks like Trump's being trumped by Kim which I kind of expected. Trump is an amateur at the foreign relations stage and he's going to stumble more as we get closer to the "summit." Bolton is not a good person to have as an advisor and no doubt is giving some bad advice.

  • BoudinMan
    May 15, 2018 at 5:57 p.m.

    now watch these 2 psychos get into a pizzing contest. is kelly sadler still employed in the white house? did china give trump a $500 billion bribe?

  • mrcharles
    May 15, 2018 at 6:17 p.m.

    Remember Trump is good.

    Remember Trump loves you.

    Thoughts and thinking.

    Honorable men.

    Yeah but!

    What did we expect but the gods of mt olympus pulling the chain of mere mortals.

  • dunk7474
    May 15, 2018 at 6:56 p.m.

    Trump is soooo ignorant, one wonders what an average President could of accomplished. He is there only to make as much money as he can. Our senators as always are hiding in their closets.

  • mozarky2
    May 15, 2018 at 8:36 p.m.

    You "progs" are so ignorant. How many times has President Trump totally p'wned the dim party since he took office? Name ONE victory the dims have scored against President Trump!
    Every time it looks like President Trump has been cornered, the monkey cage full of "progs" starts no avail.
    President Trump doesn't know HOW to lose.

  • TuckerMax
    May 15, 2018 at 8:47 p.m.

    When the Nobel Committee has a prize for stupidest political move, Trump should come right to mind. "'What do you think President Trump had to do with [possible Korean peace]? I'll tell you what. Like how about everything? And even President Moon says that and he's been great,' Trump said." CNN (4/30/18). He pissed it away. What an f'ing moron.