Responding to North Korea’s threat to cancel a historic nuclear summit due to U.S. preconditions, President Trump told reporters “we’ll have to see” if his planned meeting with the communist regime’s dictator will take place.
North Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Gwan warned in a statement earlier Wednesday that Pyongyang would back out if the U.S. refuses to lift sanctions until after North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has been dismantled.
Trump said he would still demand that North Korea dismantle its program.
Asked if he thought dictator Kim Jong Un is bluffing, Trump replied, “We’ll see what happens.”
“We haven’t been notified at all,” he said.
North Korea already canceled a planned meeting with South Korea this week, branding joint U.S.-South Korea military drills a “provocation” carried out in preparation for an invasion.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters in front of the White House Wednesday that North Korea’s maneuvering is “something that we fully expected.”
“If they want to meet, we’ll be ready, and if they don’t, that’s OK, too,” said Sanders.
While Trump has insisted on full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. has indicated it’s open to reducing its military presence in South Korea as a bargaining chip.
In another statement attributed to the foreign affairs minister, North Korea called National Security Adviser John Bolton “repugnant” for requiring Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program before receiving any benefits.
The rogue regime called on the U.S. to end a “hostile policy, nuclear threats and blackmail” as a “precondition.”
“It is a ridiculous comedy to see that the Trump administration, claiming to take a different road from previous administrations, still clings to the outdated policy on the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) — a policy pursued by previous administrations at the time when the DPRK was at the stage of nuclear development,” the statement said.
North Korea said that if Trump “follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, he will be recorded as more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors, far from his initial ambition to make unprecedented success.”
“If the Trump administration takes an approach to the DPRK-U.S. summit with sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations, it will receive a deserved response from us,” Pyongyang said.
“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.”
North Korea also objected to Bolton urging North to follow a Libya-style program of disarmament, calling it “awfully sinister” and an attempt to impose a “miserable fate.
Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was brutally killed by a mob during a U.S.-led effort to remove him from power in 2011, a decade after he agreed to give up his nuclear program.
“We shed light on the quality of Bolton in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance toward him,” the North Korean statement said.
“The world knows all too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq.”
In 2003, North Korea refused to participate in multilateral talks if Bolton was present after he called then leader Kim Jong Il a “tyrannical dictator.”
After Pyongyang’s criticism of the annual “Max Thunder” joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, the U.S. announced Wednesday it would downscale the drills, UPI reported, removing the B-52 strategic bomber and eight F-22 Raptors from the exercises.
The decision came after South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo canceled all official activities Wednesday to hold emergency meetings with the U.S.
Kim hiding evidence?
Reuters reported Wednesday that satellite imagery shows North Korea dismantling facilities at its nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.
However, experts say the images don’t show whether or not it is the first step toward full denuclearization or an attempt to hide nuclear capabilities.
Photos taken by the private company Planet Labs as recently as May 14 show North Korea removing some structures around the site, according to experts, Reuters reported.
“So far it looks like the surface-level support structures are being dismantled,” Scott LaFoy, an open source imagery analyst, told the news wire. “This would be consistent with the site being closed, as you need engineers and working teams on-site to prepare and maintain the site.”
No international inspectors have been allowed at the site.
Suh Kune-yull, professor of nuclear energy system engineering at Seoul National University, Reuters reported, said Pyongyang “might seem like they’re being generous in holding this event, but this is the actual testing ground we’re talking about here — the smoking gun.”
“It seems like they’re trying to erase any evidence of the nuclear capabilities they have.”