With just weeks to go before US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are expected to hold their first-ever summit, Pyongyang yesterday criticized what it called “misleading” claims that Trump’s policy of maximum political pressure and sanctions are what drove the North to the negotiating table.
The official Korean Central News Agency quoted a North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman as warning the claims are a “dangerous attempt” to ruin a budding detente on the Korean Peninsula after Kim’s summit late last month with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
At the summit, Kim agreed to a number of measures aimed at improving North-South ties and indicated he was willing to discuss the denuclearization of the peninsula, though exactly what that would entail and what conditions the North might require have not yet been explained.
Trump and senior US officials have suggested repeatedly that Washington’s tough policy toward the North, along with pressure on China, have played a decisive role in turning around what had been an extremely tense situation.
Just last year, as Kim was launching long-range missiles at a record pace and trading vulgar insults with Trump, it would have seemed unthinkable for the topic of denuclearization to be on the table.
However, the North’s statement yesterday seemed to be aimed at strengthening Kim’s position going into his meeting with Trump.
Pyongyang claims Kim himself is the driver of the current situation.
“The US is deliberately provoking the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] at the time when the situation on the Korean Peninsula is moving toward peace and reconciliation,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.
Describing Pyongyang’s recent move as a “sign of weakness” would “not be conducive” to talks, and might “bring the situation back to square one,” he added.
The spokesman did not explicitly mention the Kim-Trump summit, and Pyongyang has yet to make any formal announcement of their planned meeting.
Kim and Trump are expected to meet later this month or early next month.
Trump has indicated the date and place have been chosen and said he believes the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Koreas might be a good venue.
Experts are split over whether Kim’s statement made with Moon at the DMZ marks a unique opening for progress or a rehash of Pyongyang’s long-standing demand for security guarantees.
Yesterday’s comments were among the very few the North has made since Trump agreed in March to the meeting.
The spokesman also criticized Washington for its ongoing “pressure and military threats” and its position that such pressure would not be eased until North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons completely.
The White House has also announced a separate meeting between Trump and Moon has been scheduled at the White House on May 22 to “continue their close coordination on developments regarding the Korean Peninsula.”
Additional reporting by AFP
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