Donald Trump says 'We'll see' on North Korea summit, to insist on denuclearisation
- Donald Trump says âWeâll seeâ on North Korea summit, to insist on denuclearisation
North Korea threw into doubt the June 12 summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and Trump on Wednesday, saying it might not attend if Washington continues to demand it unilaterally abandon its nuclear arsenal.A combination of two file photos shows US President Donald Trump, left, in Cleveland, Ohio, May 5, 2018, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, in Panmunjom, South Korea, April 27. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Korea Summit Press Pool via AP, File) Related News
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US President Donald Trump acknowledged on Wednesday it was unclear if his summit with North Korea would go ahead after Pyongyang threatened to pull out of the un precedented meeting, a move that could deny him a potentially major foreign policy achievement. North Korea threw into doubt the June 12 summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and Trump on Wednesday, saying it might not attend if Washington continues to demand it unilaterally abandon its nuclear arsenal. North Korea also called off talks with South Korea scheduled for Wednesday, blaming U.S.-South Korean military exercises. âWeâll have to see,â Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if the summit was still on, though he insisted he would not back down from his demand for North Koreaâs denuclearization. âNo decision, we havenât been notified at all â¦ We havenât seen anything, we havenât heard anything,â he said.
Trumpâs muted response was in marked contrast to just a few days ago when he exulted over North Koreaâs release of three Americans, welcoming them home with praise for Kim and an expression of high hopes that the summit would produce âsomething very meaningful.â
Trumpâs aides â" who, according to one U.S. official, were caught off guard by North Koreaâs warning â" were working on Wednesday to determine whether it was a negotiating ploy by Pyongyang or an attempt to scuttle the summit.
Cancellation of the summit, the first between U.S. and North Korean leaders, would deal a major blow to what would be the biggest diplomatic achievement of Trumpâs presidency. This comes at a time when his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has drawn criticism internationally and his move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has fueled deadly violence on the Israel-Gaza border.In this Wednesday, May 9, 2018, file photo provided by the North Korean government, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting at Workersâ Party of Korea headquarters in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
Trump has raised expectations for the summit even as many analysts have been sceptical about the chances of bridging the gap because of questions about North Koreaâs willingness to give up a nuclear arsenal that it says can hit the United States.
The White House said it was still hopeful the summit would take place, but Trump was prepared for a tough negotiation. âThe president is ready if the meeting takes place,â White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News. âIf it doesnât, weâll continue the maximum p ressure campaign thatâs been ongoing.â Sanders said the North Korean comments were ânot something that is out of the ordinary in these types of operations.â Pyongyang has a long history of threatening to walk away from negotiations if it does not get its way.
North Koreaâs first vice minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye Gwan, cast doubt on whether the summit, which is set for Singapore, would be held. He specifically criticized U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, who has called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that would mirror Libyaâs abandonment of its program for weapons of mass destruction. âIf 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 â¦ summit,â he said.In this Monday, July 21, 2008, file photo, Singapore police officers patrol outside the Shangri-La hotel, a possible venue for the Trump-Kim summit, in Singapore. The June 12 meeting between tough-talking President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a brash young ruler with a nuclear arsenal, brings a bombastic set of personalities to the small island nation, which has hosted plenty of important meetings, but nothing as big as this. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara, File)
North Korea clashed with Bolton when he worked under the Bush administration. âWe shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling o f repugnance towards him,â Kim, the vice minister, said.
In an interview with Fox News Radio, Bolton brushed aside the remarks against him and said odds were still in favor of the summit going ahead. âWe are going to do everything we can to come to a successful meeting, but we are not going to back away from the objective of that meeting which is complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea,â he said.
Sanders appeared reluctant to endorse the Libya model that the hawkish Bolton has touted, most recently on U.S. television news programs on Sunday. She said the model that would be followed was âthe President Trump model.â âHeâs going to run this the way he sees fit. Weâre 100 percent confident â¦ heâs the best negotiator.â
Kim Kye Gwan derided as âabsurdâ Boltonâs suggestion that discussions with North Korea should be similar to those that led to components of Libyaâ s nuclear program being shipped to the United States in 2004. â(The) world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate,â Kim said in an apparent reference to the demises of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Iraqi former president Saddam Hussein. He said North Korea was a nuclear weapon state while Libya had been at the initial stage of nuclear development.
The North Korean statements marked a dramatic reversal in tone from recent months. North Korea had announced it would publicly shut its nuclear test site next week and also improved the mood for a summit by releasing the three detained Americans last week. Some analysts and U.S. officials believe North Korea may be testing Trumpâs willingness to soften the U.S. demand for complete denuclearization for the summit, which has prompted the presidentâs supporters to suggest he deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
North Korea could also be trying to capitalize on an apparent gap in messaging between Bolton and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo, who returned from his second visit to Pyongyang last week with the freed Americans, has taken a softer line than Bolton, stressing the economic benefits, possibly including U.S. investment, that could flow to the country if it agrees to denuclearize.
Kim Kye Gwanâs statement appeared to reject such promises, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear program in exchange for trade with the United States. âWe have already stated our intention for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States,â Kim said, using the acronym for North Koreaâs official name, Democratic Peopleâs Republic of Korea.
North Korea defends its nuclear and missile programs as a deterrent against perceived aggression by t he United States, which keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. It has long said it is open to eventually giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States withdraws its troops from South Korea and ends its ânuclear umbrellaâ alliance with Seoul. âThis statement targets Bolton, and threatens the administrationâs entire strategy. Suggests NK has not radically changed its strategy, & econ. inducements will not convince them to denuke,â tweeted Abraham Denmark, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.
During his talks with Kim last week, Pompeo dealt more with summit logistics and the fate of the three American detainees instead of focusing on questions such as the two sidesâ differing definitions of âdenuclearization,â according to U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Pompeo may have wanted to avoid aggravating tensions before Kim ordered the release of the prisoners, who flew home on the diplomatâs plane.
Pompeo and Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan spoke by phone on Wednesday about the planned summit, the State Department said.Gwangju : A U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet lands as South Korea and the United States conduct the Max Thunder joint military exercise at an air base in Gwangju, South Korea, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (AP)
North Korea said it was pulling out of the talks with South Korea after denouncing U.S.-South Korean âMax Thunderâ air co mbat drills, which it said involved U.S. stealth fighters, B-52 bombers and ânuclear assetsâ.
American stealth F-22 fighters were spotted in South Korea in May, but the U.S. military command in South Korea said no B-52s were scheduled to take part. A South Korean defence ministry official said the drills would go on as planned.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: âI hope that in the end common sense will prevail, and the summit will take place and it will be successful.â
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