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Will they or Won’t they? Trump-Kim meeting under threat

Sheetal Sukhija - Wednesday 16th May, 2018

WASHINGTON, U.S. - Threatening weeks of diplomatic progress, North Korea, on Wednesday, called off high-level talks with South Korea and said the fate of the U.S.-North Korea summit was also in jeopardy.

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency confirmed that Pyongyang had called off high-level talks with Seoul and that the planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be under threat too.

KCNA quoted the First vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan as saying that the fate of the U.S.-North Korea summit, as well as bilateral relations, "would be clear" if Washington spoke of a "Libya-style" denuclearisation for the North.

In what came as the first sign of trouble in what had been warming ties, Pyongyang is now demanding that Washington doesn’t insist on pursuing a one-sided denuclearisation deal.

Kim Kye Gwan said, "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 (Democratic People's Republic of Korea - North Korea’s official name).”

Further, Gwan is said to have specifically criticized the U.S. 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.

This is not the first time that North Korea has directly clashed with Bolton.

The reclusive nation had criticized Bolton even when he worked under the Bush administration.

At the time, North Korea dubbed Trump’s new National Security Adviser as "human scum" and a "bloodsucker.”

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

Now, North Korea is also miffed with the joint military drills by South Korean and U.S. warplanes, which have marked a dramatic reversal in tone from the country from recent months when both sides embraced efforts to negotiate.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that during his recent visit to Pyongyang, he told the country’s leader that if North Korea gives up nuclear weapons, the country would enjoy crucial economic aid from America.

Pompeo even stated that the country aspires to have North Korea as a "close partner" and not an enemy and that he had told Kim Jong Un of that hope during his brief visit there.

Pompeo said that Kim Jong Un was informed that the U.S. would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to fully and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. said that in return, it would aid the North Korean economy by lifting sanctions and allowing private capital to flow into the country. 

At the same meeting, he even stated that he had finalized details of the upcoming June 12 summit between the U.S. and North Korea and had secured the release of three Americans imprisoned in North Korea.

However, on Wednesday, Gwan’s statement appeared to reject such an arrangement.

He clarified in the KCNA report that North Korea would never give up its nuclear program in exchange for economic trade with the U.S.

Gwan further added, "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.”

Earlier this week, North Korea announced that it will dismantle its nuclear testing site later this month and even invited the world to watch as it blows up its Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

North Korea said that it will hold a “ceremony” between May 23 and May 25 and foreign journalists have been invited to witness the “transparent” event.

Now, if the country cancels the meeting with Trump, it would serve as a major blow to the U.S. president Donald Trump, who has already touted the progress in Korean talks as the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency.

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