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N. Korea hints at resuming nuke tests if US-South drill conducted

In this May 24, 2018 file photo, photographers and TV crews observe a part of the dismantlement process at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea. (KCNA/Kyodo)

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- North Korea warned Tuesday that it may reconsider its suspension of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests if the United States and South Korea conduct a joint military exercise as planned.

The exercise, scheduled to be carried out in August, would target Pyongyang, the Korean Central News Agency quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying, claiming it would violate deals between U.S. and North Korean leaders.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had repeatedly agreed that Washington and Seoul would suspend their joint military drills and Pyongyang would discontinue its nuclear and missile tests, the spokesman said in a statement.

"Our discontinuation of the nuclear and ICBM tests and the U.S. suspension of joint military exercises are, to all its intents and purposes, commitments made to improve bilateral relations. They are not a legal document inscribed on a paper," he said.

If the United States does not keep the promise, North Korea has no obligation to unilaterally hold up its end of the bargain, he added.

"With the U.S. unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the U.S. as well," the spokesman said.

"I wonder whether there would be such obligation or law that one side alone has to continue to cling to when it is clear that a unilateral adherence would not bring any gains because the other side neither honors nor minds them," he added.

Trump also pledged to suspend U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises during his talks with Kim at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom on June 30, the spokesman said.

At the meeting, Trump and Kim confirmed Washington and Pyongyang will restart working-level denuclearization negotiations within weeks, but the spokesman said that if the United States and South Korea conduct the planned joint drills, that would affect the agreement.

"We will formulate our decision on the opening of the DPRK-U.S. working-level talks, while keeping watch over the U.S. move hereafter," the spokesman said, referring to the country by its formal name of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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