Date
22 May 2018
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to be having second thoughts about his planned meeting with US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/KCNA
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to be having second thoughts about his planned meeting with US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/KCNA

North Korea says it may reconsider summit with Trump

(Updated; last posted at 7:23 a.m.)

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, Reuters reports.

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.

Economic incentives

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 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 US.

Asian stock markets dipped on Wednesday after Pyongyang called off the talks with the South that were set for Wednesday. A cancellation 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.

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CG

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