Seoul — North Korea threw June 12’s summit between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump into doubt on Wednesday, threatening weeks of diplomatic progress, saying it may review if the US insists it unilaterally gives up its nuclear weapons.
The official KCNA news agency said earlier Pyongyang had called off high-level talks with Seoul, which were due on Wednesday, the first sign of trouble after months of warming ties. Citing the first deputy minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye -gwan, KCNA later said the fate of the unprecedented US-North Korea summit, as well as bilateral relations, "would be clear" if the US spoke of a "Libya-style" denuclearisation for the North.
"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, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Trump and Kim are due to meet in Singapore on June 12.
The deputy minister criticised US national security adviser John Bolton, who called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that mirrors Libya’s abandonment of its weapons of mass destruction.
North Korea clashed with Bolton during the Bush administration, calling him "human scum" and a "bloodsucker".
"We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him," the deputy minister said.
Cancellation would deal a major blow to the biggest diplomatic achievement of Trump’s presidency
The North Korean statement and its cancellation of the talks with the South due to US-South Korean military exercises mark a dramatic reversal in tone from recent months when both sides embraced efforts to negotiate.
North Korea had announced it would publicly shut its nuclear test site next week.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the US would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.
However, Kim’s statement appeared to reject that, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear programme in exchange for trade with the US.
"We have already stated our intention for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that a precondition for denuclearisation is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States," Kim said.
Pyongyang has always defended its nuclear and missile programmes as a necessary deterrent against perceived aggression by the US, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea has long said it is open to eventually giving up its nuclear arsenal if the US withdraws its troops from South Korea and ends its "nuclear umbrella" security alliance with Seoul, though South Korean officials have said the North may be willing to compromise.
The US has insisted on complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the facilities needed to build the weapons as soon as possible.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa spoke to Pompeo by phone and discussed North Korea’s postponement of the talks with the South.
Pompeo told Kang Washington would continue to make preparations for the US-North Korea summit, bearing in mind the recent action by North Korea, it said.
Kim’s statement came only hours after North Korea denounced the US-South Korean military exercises as a provocation and pulled out of the talks with the South.
Earlier KCNA denounced the "Max Thunder" air combat drills, which it said involved US stealth fighters, B-52 bombers and "nuclear assets".
Cancellation of the first meeting between a serving US president and a North Korean leader would deal a major blow to what would be the biggest diplomatic achievement of Trump’s presidency.
China said on Wednesday all parties "should show goodwill and avoid mutual provocation" to create a conducive atmosphere for denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.