North Korea threat­ens to scrap his­toric Trump-Kim sum­mit

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page -

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea on Wed­nes­day threat­ened to scrap a his­toric sum­mit next month be­tween its leader, Kim

Jong Un, and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, say­ing it has no in­ter­est in a “one-sided” af­fair meant to pres­sure Pyongyang to aban­don its nu­clear weapons.

The warn­ing by North Korea's first vice for­eign min­is­ter came hours af­ter the coun­try abruptly can­celled a high-level meet­ing with South Korea to protest US-South Korean mil­i­tary ex­er­cises that Pyongyang has long claimed are in­va­sion re­hearsals.

The sur­prise moves ap­pear to cool what had been an un­usual flurry of out­reach from a coun­try that last year con­ducted a provoca­tive se­ries of weapons tests that had many fear­ing the re­gion was on the edge of war. An­a­lysts said it's un­likely that North Korea in­tends to scut­tle all diplo­macy. More likely, they said, is that Pyongyang wants to gain lever­age ahead of the talks be­tween Kim and Trump, sched­uled for June 12 in Sin­ga­pore.

“We are no longer in­ter­ested in a ne­go­ti­a­tion that will be all about driv­ing us into a cor­ner and mak­ing a one-sided de­mand for us to give up our nukes and this would force us to re­con­sider whether we would ac­cept the North Korea-US sum­mit meet­ing,” the first vice for­eign min­is­ter, Kim Kye Gwan, said in a state­ment car­ried by state me­dia.

He crit­i­cized re­cent com­ments by Trump's top se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, and other US of­fi­cials who have said the North should fol­low the “Libyan model” of nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment and pro­vide a “com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible dis­man­tle­ment.” He also took is­sue with US views that the North should fully re­lin­quish its bi­o­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal weapons.

Some an­a­lysts say bring­ing up Libya, which dis­man­tled its rudi­men­tary nu­clear pro­gram in the 2000s in ex­change for sanc­tions re­lief, jeop­ar­dizes progress in ne­go­ti­a­tions with the North. Kim Jong Un took power weeks af­ter for­mer Libyan leader Moam­mar Gad­hafi's grue­some death at the hands of rebel forces amid a pop­u­lar up­ris­ing in Oc­to­ber 2011. The North has fre­quently used Gad­hafi's death to jus­tify its own nu­clear de­vel­op­ment in the face of per­ceived US threats.

The North's warn­ing Wed­nes­day fits a past North Korean pattern of rais­ing ten­sions to bol­ster its po­si­tions ahead of ne­go­ti­a­tions with Wash­ing­ton and Seoul. But the coun­try also has a long his­tory of scrap­ping deals with its ri­vals at the last minute.

In 2013, North Korea abruptly can­celled re­unions for fam­i­lies sep­a­rated by the 1950-53 Korean War just days be­fore they were sched­uled to be­gin to protest what it called ris­ing an­i­mosi­ties ahead of joint drills be­tween Seoul and Wash­ing­ton. In 2012, the North con­ducted a pro­hib­ited lon­grange rocket launch weeks af­ter it agreed to sus­pend weapons tests in re­turn for food as­sis­tance.

On Wed­nes­day, se­nior of­fi­cials from the two Koreas were to sit down at a bor­der vil­lage to dis­cuss how to im­ple­ment their lead­ers' re­cent agree­ments to re­duce mil­i­tary ten­sions along their heav­ily for­ti­fied bor­der and im­prove over­all ties. But hours be­fore the meet­ing was to start, the North in­formed the South that it would "in­def­i­nitely sus­pend" the talks, ac­cord­ing to Seoul's Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­istry.

In a pre-dawn dis­patch, the North's of­fi­cial Korean Cen­tral News Agency, or KCNA, called the two-week Max Thun­der drills, which be­gan Mon­day and re­port­edly in­clude about 100 air­craft, an “in­tended mil­i­tary provo­ca­tion” and an “ap­par­ent chal­lenge” to last month's sum­mit be­tween Kim Jong Un and South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, when the lead­ers met at the bor­der in their coun­tries' third sum­mit talks since their for­mal divi­sion in 1948.

“The United States must care­fully con­tem­plate the fate of the planned North Korea-US sum­mit amid the provoca­tive mil­i­tary ruckus that it's caus­ing with South Korean au­thor­i­ties,” the North said. “We'll keenly mon­i­tor how the United States and South Korean au­thor­i­ties will re­act.”

Kim Dong-yub, a North Korea ex­pert at Seoul's In­sti­tute for Far Eastern Stud­ies, said the North isn't try­ing to un­der­mine the Trump-Kim talks. The North's re­ac­tion is more like a “com­plaint over Trump's way of play­ing the good cop and bad cop game with (Sec­re­tary of State Mike) Pom­peo and Bolton,” he said.

Seoul's Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­istry, which is re­spon­si­ble for in­ter-Korean af­fairs, called North Korea's move “re­gret­table” and urged a quick re­turn to talks. The De­fense Min­istry said the drills with the United States would go on as planned.

An­nual mil­i­tary drills be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Seoul have long been a ma­jor source of con­tention be­tween the Koreas, and an­a­lysts have won­dered whether their con­tin­u­a­tion would hurt the de­tente that, since an out­reach by Kim in Jan­u­ary, has re­placed the insults and threats of war. Much larger spring­time drills took place last month with­out the North's typ­i­cally fiery con­dem­na­tion or ac­com­pa­ny­ing weapons tests, though Wash­ing­ton and Seoul toned down those ex­er­cises.

The KCNA dis­patch said the US air­craft mo­bi­lized for the drills in­clude nu­clear-ca­pa­ble B-52 bombers and stealth F-22 fighter jets, two of the US mil­i­tary as­sets it has pre­vi­ously said are aimed at launch­ing nu­clear strikes on the North. Seoul has said F-22s are in­volved in the drills, but has not con­firmed whether B-52s are tak­ing part.

In Wash­ing­ton, the US State Depart­ment em­pha­sized that Kim had pre­vi­ously in­di­cated he un­der­stood the need and pur­pose of the US con­tin­u­ing its long-planned ex­er­cises with South Korea. State Depart­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert said the US had not heard any­thing di­rectly from Pyongyang or Seoul that would change that.

“We will con­tinue to go ahead and plan the meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and Kim Jong Un,” Nauert said.

US Army Col. Rob Man­ning said the cur­rent ex­er­cise is part of the US and South Korea's “rou­tine, an­nual train­ing pro­gram to main­tain a foun­da­tion of mil­i­tary readi­ness.” Man­ning, a Pen­tagon spokesman, said the pur­pose of Max Thun­der and ex­er­cise Foal Ea­gle – another train­ing event – is to en­hance the two na­tions' abil­i­ties to op­er­ate to­gether to de­fend South Korea.

“The de­fen­sive na­ture of these com­bined ex­er­cises has been clear for many decades and has not changed,” Man­ning said.

Wash­ing­ton and Seoul de­layed the ear­lier round of spring­time drills be­cause of the North-South diplo­macy sur­round­ing Fe­bru­ary's Pyeongchang Win­ter Olympics in the South, which saw Kim send his sis­ter to the open­ing cer­e­monies.

Kim told vis­it­ing South Korean of­fi­cials in March that he “un­der­stands” the drills would take place and ex­pressed hope that they'll be mod­i­fied once the sit­u­a­tion on the penin­sula sta­bi­lizes, ac­cord­ing to the South Korean government.

De­spite Kim's out­reach, some ex­perts were skep­ti­cal about whether he would com­pletely give up a nu­clear pro­gram that he had pushed so hard to build. The North pre­vi­ously vowed to con­tinue nu­clear de­vel­op­ment un­less the United States pulls its 28,500 troops out of South Korea and with­draws its so-called “nu­clear um­brella” se­cu­rity guar­an­tee to South Korea and Ja­pan as a con­di­tion for its nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment.

Wed­nes­day's threat could also be tar­geted at show­ing a do­mes­tic au­di­ence that Kim is will­ing to stand up to Wash­ing­ton. Kim has re­peat­edly told his peo­ple that his nukes are a “pow­er­ful trea­sured sword” that can smash US hos­til­ity.

On Tues­day, South Korea's mil­i­tary said North Korea was mov­ing ahead with plans to close its nu­clear test site next week, an as­sess­ment backed by US re­searchers who say satel­lite im­ages show the North has be­gun dis­man­tling fa­cil­i­ties at the site.

The site's clo­sure was set to come be­fore the Kim-Trump sum­mit, which had been shap­ing up as a cru­cial mo­ment in the decades-long push to re­solve the nu­clear stand­off with the North, which is clos­ing in on the abil­ity to vi­ably tar­get the main­land United States with its long-range nu­clear-armed mis­siles.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.