US "Still Hopeful" For Summit Amid Fresh Threats By North Korea

WASHINGTON (Alliance News) - US President Donald Trump is poised for next month's planned ...

Alliance News 16 May, 2018 | 6:29PM
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WASHINGTON (Alliance News) - US President Donald Trump is poised for next month's planned summit despite North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's threat to cancel the meeting, the White House said Wednesday.

"We're still hopeful that the meeting will take place, and we'll continue down that path," spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told US broadcaster Fox News. "But at the same time, we've been prepared that these could be tough negotiations.

Trump is "ready if the meeting takes place, and if it doesn't, we'll continue the maximum pressure campaign that's been ongoing," Sanders said.

North Korea cancelled high-level talks scheduled for Wednesday with South Korea due to the ongoing so-called Max Thunder drills being conducted by Washington and Seoul.

The US and South Korea say the drills are purely defensive, but North Korea's leadership described he manoeuvres as a "military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean peninsula," North Korean news agency KCNA reported.

Seoul said it remained committed to the Panmunjom Declaration reached at last month's inter-Korean summit, and urged North Korea to return to talks "as soon as possible," calling Wednesday's cancellation "regrettable."

A top North Korean official threatened to cancel the summit - scheduled for June 12 in Singapore - if the US insisted that North Korea completely abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

"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 US summit," said Kim Kye Gwan, vice minister of foreign affairs, according to KCNA.

During a White House meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, reporters asked Trump if Kim Jong Un was bluffing.

"We'll see what happens," Trump replied.

Earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the meeting would be an "important opportunity" for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

"All parties concerned, especially North Korea and the US, should meet each other halfway, show kindness and sincerity to each other, and together create favourable conditions and atmosphere for the leaders' meeting," ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, meeting EU officials in Brussels, said he hoped "that in the end common sense will prevail, and the summit will take place and it will be successful."

At the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Karel van Osterom of the Netherlands, chairman of the UN Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee, said he remained optimistic for talks with Pyongyang.

"The road ahead will have bumps, and I think we're hitting one of the bumps at the moment," he said. "But we are hopeful that the road will lead to a solution we all hope for."

Wednesday's high-level talks between Pyongyang and Seoul were intended as a follow-up to last month's meeting in which Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In agreed to work towards a permanent peace treaty and the elimination of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Although the meeting between the two countries - technically at war for more than six decades - was hailed as a breakthrough, scepticism about the North's commitment to denuclearization has flourished, given Pyongyang's abandonment of similar agreements in the past.

Kim Kye Gwan condemned John Bolton, Trump's hawkish new national security advisor, for comparing the North's denuclearization to Libya's abandonment of weapons of mass destruction.

Long-ruling Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi agreed to give up his nuclear programme in 2003. In 2011, Libya descended into a civil war, in which NATO intervened, and Gaddafi was eventually ousted and slain.

Bolton's comments represent an "awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq," Kim Kye Gwan said, voicing Pyongyang's "repugnance" toward Bolton.

He said North Korea is unwilling to abandon its nuclear weapons in return for economic assistance, having "never had any expectation of US support in carrying out our economic construction."

Copyright dpa

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