Vietnam Time

5/17/2018 9:52:19 AM

US 'hopeful' as North Korea threatens to cancel Kim-Trump summit

U.S. President Donald Trump sounded a note of caution on Wednesday (May 16th)  about his much-vaunted summit with Kim Jong Un, saying "we'll see" after Pyongyang threatened to cancel.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump are due to meet in Singapore on June 12th, but Pyongyang has thrown the meeting into doubt. (Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb)

The White House voiced hope the upcoming summit will proceed as planned.

Trump said the U.S. government had not received any official word of a change in plans for the June 12th meeting in Singapore.

"We haven't been notified at all. We'll have to see," Trump said in the Oval Office. "We haven't seen anything. We haven't heard anything. We will see what happens. Whatever it is, it is."

After weeks of warm words and diplomatic backslapping, Pyongyang abruptly threatened to pull out over U.S. demands for "unilateral nuclear abandonment."

In an angrily worded statement, the North warned "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."

The statement was attributed to first vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan and carried by state media KCNA.

In that case, he added, Pyongyang would have to "reconsider" its participation at next month's summit in Singapore.

A PLEA FROM CHINA

Experts have not been surprised by the sudden about face, expecting bumps in the road as tough issues to be discussed in the meeting come into sharper focus.

Washington is pressing for North Korea's complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation. But so far, the North has given no public indication of what it is offering, beyond a broad commitment to denuclearisation of the "Korean peninsula."

North Korea missile and nuclear sites. (Graphic: AFP/Gal Roma)

Pyongyang "made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearisation is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States," the North Korean minister said.

In the past, Pyongyang has demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed in the South, and an end to Washington's nuclear umbrella over its ally.

China called for the summit to go ahead.

"The situation on the peninsula has eased up, which is worth cherishing," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

Minister Kim also dismissed offers by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for U.S. economic aid if the North denuclearises.

"We have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in future," he said.

The White House said plans for the summit were moving ahead.

"The president is ready if the meeting takes place. And if it doesn't, we will continue the maximum pressure campaign that has been ongoing," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

THUNDERSTRUCK

KCNA denounced the Max Thunder joint military exercises being held between the U.S. and South Korea as a "rude and wicked provocation," and Seoul said it had received a message cancelling planned high-level talks "indefinitely."

The two-week drills started last Friday and involves some 100 aircraft from the two allies, including F-22 stealth fighter jets.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters it had received "no notification" of a position change by North Korea on next month's meeting.

The exercises were "not provocative" and would continue, she added./.

VNF/AFP  
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