SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has threatened to abandon planned talks between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump in June if Washington insists on pushing it “into a corner” on nuclear disarmament.
A statement published by the state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said North Korea would never accept economic assistance from the U.S. in exchange for unilaterally abandoning its nuclear program.
Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea’s first vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted in the article as saying the U.S. said “it would offer economic compensation and benefit in case we abandon (nuclear weapons).”
“We have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction and will not… make such a deal in future,” he added.
If the Trump administration was “genuinely committed” to improving ties with Pyongyang, “they will receive a deserving response,” Kim Kye Gwan said. “But if they try to push us into a corner and force only unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in that kind of talks and will have to reconsider … the upcoming summit.”
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo early Wednesday morning Seoul time, according to a statement, which quoted Pompeo as saying preparations would continue for the Trump-Kim summit, “keeping in mind this action of the North.”
“Minister Kang and Secretary Pompeo agreed to continue close cooperation between South Korea and the United States to achieve a complete denuclearization and peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula,” the South Korean statement said.
Not following the Libya model
The statement referenced comments made by Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton about Libya being a potential model for North Korean denuclearization.
In December 2003, after months of negotiations with the U.S., Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to dismantle his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. Eight years later, after Washington soured on Gadhafi, NATO forces helped overthrow him, and he was later cornered by rebels who beat and tortured him before summarily shooting him in the head.
Bolton’s comments, Kim said, were indicative of “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 countries to big powers.”
“It is absolutely absurd to dare compare (North Korea), a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development,” he added.
“World knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq, which have met miserable fate.”
Singling out the national security adviser for personal criticism, Kim said that North Korea had “shed light on the quality of (John) Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him.”
Inter-Korean talks suspended
After weeks of improving ties on the Korean Peninsula, capped by the dramatic image of Kim shaking hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, things took a sudden step backwards Wednesday.
In a missive delivered to the South in the early hours of the morning, the North said it was suspending high-level talks scheduled for Wednesday in view of “provocative military disturbances with South Korea.”
North Korea’s anger, which took both Seoul and Washington off guard, came as the two allies were conducting annual “Max Thunder” air force drills, which Pyongyang has always objected to in the past and accused of destabilizing the situation on the Peninsula.
In a statement, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it was regrettable that the North unilaterally postponed the talks due to the annual (South Korea-US) joint air combat drills.”
“Such action by the North is inconsistent with the fundamental spirit and purpose of the Panmunjeom Declaration agreed by the South and North leaders on April 27,” it added.
An earlier KCNA report said the Max Thunder 2018 air combat drill was against the declaration — signed last month between the Koreas — wherein they agreed to cease all hostile acts against each other.
Back in March, when South Korea’s national security adviser told reporters at the White House that Kim had invited Trump to meet, he also said that Kim “understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.”
In the Unification Ministry statement, Seoul pledged to continue pursuing “necessary measures through close consultations with relevant ministries to achieve sustainable development of inter-Korean relations and a permanent peace settlement through the implementation of the Panmunjeom Declaration.”