US says it is preparing for North Korea summit to go ahead

Trump says ‘We’ll see what happens’ as North Koreans threaten to cancel meeting

US president Donald Trump has refused to commit to meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June, the White House says they are still preparing for the summit. Video: The White House

 

The White House said it is continuing to prepare for a planned summit with North Korea next month, despite the North Koreans warning that they may cancel the meeting.

Hours after it first emerged that the nuclear state had cancelled a scheduled meeting with South Korea on Wednesday, North Korea doubled down on its threat to cancel a June 12th summit with the United States.

“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 [North Korea]-US summit,” vice foreign minister Kim Gye Gwan said, according to North Korea’s central news agency.

Responding to questions from reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday as he met with the president of Uzbekistan, US president Donald Trump remained non-committal. “We’ll see what happens. Time will tell,” he said to shouted questions from reporters. “No decision, we haven’t been notified at all . . . We haven’t seen anything, we haven’t heard anything,” he added when asked if the summit would still take place.

But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration was still “ready to meet” and had fully expected North Korea to make such a threat.

“We’re still hopeful that the meeting will take place and we’ll continue down that path, but at the same time we’ve been prepared that these could be tough negotiations,” she said in an interview with Fox News. “The president is ready if the meeting takes place. If it doesn’t, we’ll continue the maximum pressure campaign that’s been ongoing.”

Mr Kim – who is close to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – warned that Mr Trump risked becoming a “more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors” if he didn’t accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

He also specifically criticised John Bolton, the recently appointed national security adviser, who has cited Libya’s denuclearisation as a possible prototype for a deal with North Korea.

‘Feelings of repugnance’

“We do not hide our feelings of repugnance towards him,” said the North Korean statement, noting the country’s dealings with him in the past when he was a member of the George W Bush administration.

“[The] world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate,” Mr Kim said, adding that it was absurd to compare North Korea, which is a nuclear weapons state, with Libya, which was only at an initial stage of nuclear development.

In an interview with Fox News Radio, Mr Bolton said the remarks against him were “nothing new” and said odds were still in favour of the summit going ahead. “We 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 denuclearisation of North Korea.”

The surprise announcement by North Korea followed weeks of engagement between both countries.

Andrew Shearer of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said that Mr Kim’s move to pull out of the planned talks with South Korea and his threat not to proceed with the Singapore summit “is almost certainly intended to signal that he won’t be a soft touch in negotiations and to increase North Korea’s leverage”.

But he added that other allies in the region will be watching closely. “Japan and other allies will be watching anxiously that President Trump doesn’t trade away vital interests, such as the US military presence on the peninsula or ending the threat posed to Japan in particular by the DPRK’s intermediate range missiles.”