North Korea is rapidly moving the goalposts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting it “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.
The latest warning, delivered by former North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan on Wednesday, fits Pyongyang’s well-established pattern of raising the stakes in negotiations by threatening to walk out if it doesn’t get its way.
This comes just hours after the North Korean regime cast doubt on the planned summit by protesting against joint air force drills taking place in South Korea, saying they were ruining the diplomatic mood.
If the Trump administration approaches the summit “with sincerity” for improved relations, “it will receive a deserved response from us,” Kim Kye Gwan, now vice foreign minister, said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday.
“However, if the U.S. 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-U.S. summit,” he said, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name. He also questioned the sequencing of denuclearization first, compensation second.
Analysts said they were not surprised by these latest developments in what has been a year of diplomatic whiplash.
“The U.S. and South Korea hold an exercise, which contains some strategic strike elements to it. U.S. officials can’t seem to get on the same page regarding denuclearization and what is required of North Korea,” said Ken Gause, a North Korea leadership expert at CNA, a Virginia-based consulting firm. “At some point, North Korea was going to cry foul.”
Trump and Kim Jong Un are due to meet in Singapore on June 12, which would be the first time a North Korean leader had met with a sitting U.S. president.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Anna Fifield