White House still hopeful on summit with Kim Jong-un

Reuters and AFP, WASHINGTON and SEOUL

Thu, May 17, 2018 - Page 1

The US is still hopeful about a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but US President Donald Trump is prepared for a tough negotiation process, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday.

North Korea yesterday threw the June 12 summit into doubt, threatening weeks of diplomatic progress by saying it might reconsider if Washington insists it unilaterally gives up its nuclear weapons.

“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,” Huckabee Sanders 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,” she said.

Huckabee Sanders said the comments from North Korea were “not something that is out of the ordinary in these types of operations.”

“The president’s fully prepared and fully ready to carry on in these conversations both leading up to and if the meeting takes place,” she said. “He’ll be there and he’ll be ready.”

In an angrily worded statement, Pyongyang insisted it would abandon the high-level meeting if Washington sought to pressure it into giving up its atomic arsenal.

“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,” North Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement carried by state media.

In that case, Pyongyang would have to “reconsider” its participation at next month’s summit in Singapore, he said.

The North’s weaponry is expected to be top of the agenda at the historic talks, but Pyongyang has long insisted it needs the weapons to defend itself against invasion by the US.

The vice minister tore into Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton for drawing parallels between North Korea and Libya.

After giving up his atomic program, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was killed in an uprising backed by NATO bombing.

“It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], a nuclear weapon state, to Libya, which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development,” he said.

“We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him,” he said.

Washington is pressing for its complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, but so far, the North has not given any public indication of what concessions it is offering, beyond euphemistic commitments to denuclearization of the “Korean Peninsula.”