WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration would continue to press for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, even as North Korea threatens to withdraw from an upcoming summit, citing concerns that the United States will lead “one-sided” negotiations.
A day after North Korea abruptly canceled a diplomatic summit with South Korea and raised the possibility of scrapping next month’s summit with the United States, Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said “time will tell” if his high-stakes meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will still take place.
“We will see what happens. Whatever it is, it is,” Trump told reporters gathered at the Oval Office for a meeting between the president and Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the president of Uzbekistan.
Questions about the future of the summit — scheduled for June 12 in Singapore — cropped up Tuesday after North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, Kim Kye Gwan, issued a statement through state-run media heavily criticizing Trump and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, warning them that North Korea would not be pushed “into a corner” on the issue of denuclearization.
“If President 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,” the first vice foreign minister said, according to a translation of his statement.
The statement was released hours after news emerged that North Korea had pulled out of a meeting with South Korea over the North’s objections to joint military exercises between American and South Korean forces. North Korea called the regularly held drills a “deliberate provocation,” but U.S. and South Korean officials maintain that North Korea was alerted about the exercises ahead of time.
The first vice foreign minister also took aim at comments made by Bolton, who told “Fox News Sunday” that the United States would insist North Korea completely abandon its nuclear program in exchange for economic aid and investment. Bolton, who served as ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush, said the U.S. would seek to employ the “Libya model,” referring to an international agreement reached with then-Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi in the early 2000s, who agreed to dismantle his nuclear program. Qadhafi was later killed as part of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
“We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feelings of repugnance towards him,” Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement, adding that Bolton’s insistence on deploying the Libya model was an “awfully sinister move” aimed at undercutting Kim Jong Un’s powers.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked back some of Bolton’s comments in a Wednesday morning interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends,” saying she wasn’t “aware that that’s a model that we’re using.
“There’s not a cookie cutter model on how this would work,” Sanders said. “This is the President Trump model. He’s going to run this the way he sees fit.”