North Korea threatened to walk away from its meeting with President Donald Trump next month if the US made a “one-sided demand” for the regime to surrender its nuclear weapons.
Kim Kye Gwan, a vice foreign minister and a top North Korea disarmament negotiator, said the regime was disappointed by recent comments from the US on their goals for the summit, according to a statement published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Kim said North Korea felt “repugnance” towards National Security Adviser John Bolton and rejected a “Libya model” in which the regime quickly gives away its nuclear weapons.
“If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-US summit,” Kim said. He added that Trump risked becoming a “more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors” if he didn’t accept North Korea as a nuclear power.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. China, North Korea’s top trading partner and ally, called on both sides to “avoid further provocation.” “The amelioration of the situation on the Korean Peninsula is hard won and should be cherished,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing.
Trump’s planned June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore is shaping up to be one of the biggest foreign policy tests of the Trump administration. It comes after a year in which the two countries’ leaders traded personal insults and threats of war as North Korea ramped up its tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks over the steps needed for the US to ease sanctions against North Korea: The Trump administration wants Kim Jong-un to give up his weapons before getting anything in return, while the regime favors a more phased approach.
“The original conflict of interests endures,” said Van Jackson, a strategy fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, and a former US Department of Defense adviser. “The bottom line is that Kim isn’t going to give up nukes, and the reason is pessimism; it’s that North Korea has no theory of its own security without nukes.”
North Korea abruptly cancelled talks with South Korea and warned the US to “think twice” about the Trump summit. The moves undercut the optimism after Kim agreed to discuss his nuclear weapons program in a first-of-its-kind meeting.
Seoul’s financial markets took the threats in stride, with traders viewing it as a negotiating tactic on the part of the North Korean leader. The benchmark Kospi index gained 0.2 percent, while the won parred the day’s loss to 0.3 percent, after weakening as much as 0.8 percent earlier.
The comments from Kim Kye Gwan indicated broader dissatisfaction with the US approach to talks, and Bolton’s comparisons to Libya in particular. The national security adviser has described a denuclearisation deal similar to one in which Libya allowed its weapons to be packed up and shipped to the US in return for sanctions relief.
The comparison only underscores the fears of the Kim regime, which views nuclear weapons as insurance against any US-led military action. Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was brutally killed by NATO-backed rebels two years after the last remnants of his nuclear programme were removed. “Our country is neither Libya nor Iraq, which have met a miserable fate,” Kim Kye Gwan said.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the US won’t send B-52 bombers for the military drills, citing unidentified local military and government officials.