0708 GMT July 17, 2018
Citing First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Gwan, the North’s official KCNA news agency said the fate of the unprecedented US-North Korea summit, as well as bilateral relations, “would be clear” if the United States spoke of a “Libya-style” denuclearization for the North, Reuters reported.
“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 by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The vice minister specifically criticized US national security adviser John Bolton, who has called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that mirrors Libya’s abandonment of its weapons of mass destruction.
Pyongyang threw next month’s summit between the country’s leader Kim Jong-un and the US President Donald Trump into doubt, who are scheduled to meet in Singapore on June 12.
KCNA said earlier Pyongyang had called off high-level talks with Seoul, which had been due on Wednesday, in the first sign of trouble after months of warming ties.
The North Korean statement, as well its cancelation of the talks with the South due to US-South Korean military exercises, 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.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the United States 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 that, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear program in exchange for trade with the United States.
“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,” Kim said.
North Korea has always defended its nuclear and missile programs as a necessary deterrent against perceived aggression by the United States, which keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea has long said it is open to eventually giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States withdraws its troops from South Korea and ends its “nuclear umbrella” security alliance with Seoul, though South Korean officials have said the North may be willing to compromise.
The United States has insisted on complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the facilities needed to build the weapons as soon as possible.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa spoke to Pompeo by telephone and discussed North Korea’s postponement of the talks with the South, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Pompeo told Kang 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.