The Pentagon on Tuesday defended ongoing joint military exercises with South Korea amid apparent threats from the North Korean government to cancel an impending summit with President Donald Trump.
The Department of Defense maintained the exercises with South Korea are “defensive” in nature.
“While we will not discuss specifics, the defensive nature of these combined exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed,” Col. Rob Manning, spokesman for the Department of Defense, said in a statement.
The statement came after reports North Korean state media had described the drills, known as Max Thunder, as a “ruckus” and further threatened to cancel the planned summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The North Korean government reportedly said the US will “have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit in light of this provocative military ruckus.”
The White House said it’s “aware” of the reports on North Korea’s alleged threats, adding, “The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies.”
The State Department urged caution over the reports.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “We need to verify it.”
Max Thunder is an annual military exercise involving US and South Korean aircraft. This year, roughly 1,500 air force personnel are involved in the drills, which began on May 11 and last for two weeks.
Trump’s summit with Kim is tentatively set for June 12 in Singapore. The two leaders, who spent a significant portion of 2017 trading threats and insults, are meant to discuss the rogue state’s nuclear program.