Suspends talks with South
North Korea threw next month’s unprecedented summit between Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump into doubt on Wednesday, threatening weeks of diplomatic progress by saying it may reconsider if Washington insists on unilateral denuclearization.
The North’s official KCNA news agency said earlier on Wednesday Pyongyang had called off high-level talks with Seoul in the first sign of trouble in what had been warming ties.
Citing first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan, KCNA later said the fate of the US-North Korea summit, as well as bilateral relations, “would be clear” if Washington spoke of a “Libya-style” denuclearization 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 Kye Gwan said, referring to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We 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,” he said.
The statements, combined with joint military drills by South Korean and US warplanes, 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. Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet in Singapore on June 12.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the United States would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
However, Kim Kye Gwan’s statement appeared to reject such an arrangement, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear program in exchange for economic trade with the United States.
Asian stock markets dipped on Wednesday after Pyongyang called off the talks with the South that were set for Wednesday. A cancelation of the June 12 summit in Singapore could see tensions on the Korean peninsula flare again even as investors worry about China-US trade friction.
“This will weigh on the Korean reconstruction beneficiaries that have had a strong run on peace and even reunification hopes recently,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note.
South Korea’s foreign minister Kang Kyung-hwa spoke to Pompeo by telephone earlier on Wednesday and discussed North Korea’s postponement of the talks with the South, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Pompeo told Kang that Washington would continue to make preparations for the US-North Korea summit, bearing in mind the recent action by North Korea, it said.
Kim Kye Gwan’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 scheduled for Wednesday.
An earlier KCNA report angrily attacked the “Max Thunder” air combat drills, which it said involved US stealth fighters and B-52 bombers.
Any cancelation of the June 12 summit in Singapore, 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.
Trump has raised expectations for a successful meeting even as many analysts have been skeptical about the chances of bridging the gap due to questions about North Korea’s willingness to give up a nuclear arsenal that it says can hit the US.—Agencies