SEOUL/Washington - North Korea said Thursday it will not hold talks with Seoul under the current diplomatic situation, calling South Korean officials “ignorant and incompetent” a day after the hermit state abruptly cancelled planned inter-Korean discussions.

A high-level meeting between the two neighbours had been scheduled for Wednesday, but the North pulled out early that morning over joint military exercises between the US and the South.

The two-week “Max Thunder” drills started on May 11 and involve some 100 aircraft from the two allies, including F-22 stealth fighter jets.

“Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face-to-face again with the present regime of South Korea,” the official KCNA news agency cited top negotiator Ri Son Gwon as saying on Thursday.

Pyongyang has also threatened to cancel a historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore next month, following weeks of tentative rapprochement.

Ri, head of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, described the South’s reaction to the meeting’s cancellation as a “confrontation racket”, according to KCNA.

“On this opportunity the present South Korean authorities have been clearly proven to be an ignorant and incompetent group devoid of the elementary sense of the present situation,” he added. In Wednesday’s angrily worded statement, KCNA denounced the Max Thunder exercises as a “rude and wicked provocation”, and Seoul said it had received a message cancelling planned high-level talks “indefinitely”.

Meanwhile, the United States said Thursday it was ready to proceed with next month’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, putting the ball back in Pyongyang’s court after it threatened to scrap the meeting.

“If the North Koreans want to meet, we’ll be there,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told journalists, adding that the White House schedule had not changed.

The Pentagon is not considering cutting back the joint US-South Korean military exercises that have drawn angry condemnation from Pyongyang ahead of a planned US-North Korea summit, an official said Thursday.

“There’s been no talk of reducing anything. There’s been no talk of changing our scope,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

The exercises “are defensive in nature and the scope hasn’t changed ... This is about safeguarding the alliance,” she added.

North Korea has canceled talks with Seoul over the “Max Thunder” joint military exercises between the US and the South.

Pyongyang has also threatened to cancel a historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore next month, following weeks of tentative rapprochement.

The Max Thunder drills started May 11 and involve some 100 aircraft from the US and South Korea, including F-22 stealth fighter jets.