US President Donald Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping “could be influencing” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after Pyongyang suddenly shifted to a sharp, negative tone this week about the prospects of a planned summit with Washington in June, Bloomberg reports.
“If you remember two weeks ago, all of a sudden out of nowhere Kim Jong-un went to China to say hello again – second time – to President Xi,” Trump told reporters during an Oval Office meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, referring to a May 8 meeting between the leaders.
“It could very well be that he’s influencing Kim Jong-un. We’ll see what happens. Meaning the President of China, President Xi, could be influencing,” Trump said.
North Korea suspended talks with Seoul earlier this week, citing long-planned US-South Korea military exercises, and warned about the fate of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore on June 12.
North’s chief negotiator with the South, Ri Son-gwon, on Thursday called the South Korean government “ignorant and incompetent” and threatened to halt all talks with Seoul unless its demands are met.
At the White House, Trump said Kim’s security would be guaranteed in any deal and his country would not suffer the fate of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, Reuters reported.
The US president distanced himself from comments by his national security adviser John Bolton that North Korea has angrily denounced.
“North Korea is actually talking to us about times and everything else as though nothing happened,” Trump told reporters.
He said he was not pursuing the “Libya model” in getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Bolton has repeatedly suggested the Libya model of unilateral disarmament for North Korea, most recently on Sunday.
Gaddafi was deposed and killed after Libyans joined the 2011 Arab Spring protests, aided by NATO allies who had encouraged him to give up his banned weapons of mass destruction under a 2003 deal.
In a statement on Wednesday that threatened withdrawal from the summit, North Korea’s first vice minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye-gwan, derided as “absurd” Bolton’s suggestion of a deal similar to that under which components of Libya’s nuclear program were shipped to the United States.
“[The] world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate,” he said in apparent reference to the demises of Gaddafi and Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein.
Trump said the deal he was looking at would give Kim “protections that will be very strong”.
“He would be there, he would be running his country, his country would be very rich,” Trump said.
“The Libya model was a much different model. We decimated that country,” he said, adding that it would only come into play “most likely” if a deal could not be reached with North Korea.
Trump stressed that North Korea would have to abandon its nuclear weapons.
“We cannot let that country have nukes. We just can’t do it,” he said of North Korea, which has been working on missiles capable of hitting the US.
Washington has demanded the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible” dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Pyongyang has rejected unilateral disarmament and given no indication that it is willing to go beyond statements of broad support for the concept of universal denuclearization.
It has said in previous, failed talks that it could consider giving up its arsenal if the US provided security guarantees by removing its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.
Cancellation of the summit, the first between US and North Korean leaders, would deal a major blow to what could be the biggest diplomatic achievement of Trump’s presidency, one his supporters have suggested would be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.
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