SEOUL — A senior North Korean official warned Wednesday that Pyongyang may cancel its summit meeting between Kim Jong Un and President Trump scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, if it is going to be pushed into giving up its nuclear arsenal.
If the Trump administration pressures Pyongyang to unilaterally abandon its nuclear weapons, North Korea would have to reconsider the summit, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
“If the U.S. 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-U.S. summit,” he said (The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the formal name of North Korea).
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Kim Kye Gwan accused the White House and State Department of attempting to turn North Korea into another Libya with its insistence on “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards.”
Kim was referring to comments by Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton in March that the administration is “looking at the Libya model” for it North Korea negotiations.
Libya’s then-leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed in 2003 to give up and dismantle his nuclear and chemical weapons programs in order to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and normalize relations with the United States. The U.S. opened an embassy in Tripoli but in 2012 Gadhafi was beaten and killed in a rebellion supported by a NATO bombing campaign.
Kim called Bolton’s reference to that approach “an awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their country to big powers,” and singled out Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton for criticism.
“We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards (Bolton),” Kim Kye Gwan said.
The high-ranking official declared that North Korea was already a nuclear-capable state, unlike Libya, and that preconditions for denuclearization would be “to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States.”
The news came hours after the North canceled a high-level meeting with South Korean officials that was scheduled for Wednesday, citing a joint military exercise as the reason.
In its earlier statement, KCNA claimed that the U.S. and South Korea’s joint air drill, which began on Friday, was “a bid to make a preemptive airstrike at the DPRK and win the air.”
The statement called the drill “an undisguised challenge” to the Panmunjom Declaration signed by the two countries at the inter-Korean summit held on April 27 and “a deliberate military provocation to the trend of the favorably developing situation on the Korean peninsula.”
“We cannot but take a step of suspending the north-south high-level talks scheduled on May 16,” the KCNA statement continued, and cautioned that “the U.S. will have to think twice about the fate of the DPRK-U.S. summit.”
The U.S. and South Korea are currently undertaking their annual Max Thunder drills, which this year involve around 100 aircraft, including eight F-22 stealth fighter jets. The exercise, carried out by the South Korean Air Force Operations Command and the U.S. 7th Air Force, has frequently been criticized by Pyongyang as a provocation.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the drills would continue as scheduled despite the protests from Pyongyang and their decision to cancel the high-level talks.
“Max Thunder training will proceed as planned, and there is no disagreement between (South Korea) and the U.S. in this regard,” read a statement from ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo. “Max Thunder is training for pilots to improve their skills, not an operational plan or offensive training.”
The exercise is scheduled to run through May 25.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, which deals with inter-Korean issues, expressed disappointment in Pyongyang’s decision to cancel Wednesday’s talks.
Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said it was “regrettable” that the North postponed the high-level talks, calling the action “inconsistent with the fundamental spirit and purpose of the Panmunjom Declaration agreed by the South and North leaders on April 27.”
“Inter-Korean talks must continue in order to discuss issues raised by the North,” he said.