North Korea is threatening to pull out of the historic summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump if the US insists the regime abandons its nuclear weapons.
Trump and Kim Jong-un are due to hold talks on 12 June in Singapore. This would have been an unprecedented meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US President.
However, an angry statement by the North Korean vice-foreign minister, issued via the state news agency, seems to suggest that the summit is now in jeopardy.
Kim Kye-gwan said that if the US “corners us and unilaterally demands we give up nuclear weapons we will no longer have an interest in talks” and “will have to reconsider”.
North Korea had previously said that it was committed to denuclearising the Korean peninsula. This commitment was one of the conditions on which the meeting with Trump was arranged.
Much of Kim Kye-gwan’s statement was directed at John Bolton, Trump’s ultra-hawkish national security adviser. “We do not hide our feelings of repugnance towards [Bolton]”, he said.
In recent interviews, Bolton has said that North Korea could have a denuclearisation deal similar to the one in Libya, in which the state dismantled its nuclear weapons and shipped them to the US, and was then rewarded with sanctions relief.
North Korea is not happy with this comparison. Kim Kye-gwan’s statement said:
The world know too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq, which have met a miserable fate.
It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which was at the initial state of nuclear development.
The Trump administration has been clear that it wants North Korea to irreversibly give up its nuclear weapons before it gets anything in return. However, North Korea is adamant that it is not interested in a policy of disarmament first and compensation later.
Kim Kye-gwan said:
We have already stated our intention of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that the preconditions for denuclearisation is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostil policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States.
But now, the US is miscalculating the magnanimity and broad-minded initiatives of the DPRK as signs of weakness and trying to embellish and advertise as if these are the product of its sanctions and pressure.
The US is trumpeting as if it would offer economic compensation and benefits if we abandon nukes. But we have never had any expectation of US support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in the future either.
Kim Kye-gwan’s statement came after North Korea abruptly cancelled a summit with South Korea that was scheduled for today. The cancellation was a protest over a joint US-South Korean military exercise, named “Max Thunder”, that began on Friday.
Max Thunder involved around 100 warplanes from the US and South Korea carrying out exercises that both states claim are strictly defensive.
The North Korean news agency said that the exercises represented a “flagrant challenge” to the joint declaration made by Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at their summit last month. Both leaders promised to completely “cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict.”
The White House claims it has received no formal or informal notification of North Korea’s plans for the country itself, and that it will still try and pursue the meeting between Kim Jong-un and Trump.