WASHINGTON — North Korea is threatening to cancel President Trump's upcoming nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un because of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, though the United States downplayed the sudden uncertainty.
North Korea's Central News Agency also announced it had already canceled high-level talks with South Korean counterparts because of the drills it considers rehearsals for an invasion of the North.
Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet June 12 in Singapore as Trump seeks to pressure the North Koreans into giving up their nuclear weapons programs.
U.S. officials, caught by surprise, said they have received no formal notification from the North or South Korean governments, and no formal protest of the military exercises from Kim's government.
"We will continue to go ahead and plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un," said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.
That planning includes a visit to the White House next week by South Korea President Moon Jae-in for a meeting with Trump.
Nauert added that, in the run-up to the scheduling of the summit, Kim had "said previously that he understands the need and the utility" of the joint military exercises involving the South Koreans.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the administration "will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies.”
The U.S. Defense Department said the military exercises are annual events, designed to help the U.S.-South Korea alliance defend itself in case of attack. "While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed," said Army Col. Robert Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.
The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on the threatened cancellation, the first hitch in talks about the summit since Trump announced March 8 he had accepted Kim's invitation. Y