North Korea rejects denuclearization, casts doubt on Trump meeting: Reports

Ahn Young-joon | AP
A man watches a TV screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station.

North Korea on Wednesday injected further uncertainty into plans for a highly anticipated summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

The reclusive regime said it will reconsider the historic June 12 meeting scheduled to take place in Singapore if the U.S. insists on Pyongyang relinquishing its nuclear weapons, Reuters and others reported, citing sources in North Korea including state news agency KCNA.

The development is the latest sign of possible backtracking by Kim following the ruler’s months-long international charm offensive that was widely hoped to clear tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Earlier, the rogue state canceled talks with South Korea and threatened to ditch the June 12 summit in protest over Washington and Seoul’s joint military drills.

Wednesday’s news “is classic North Korean playbook,” said Sean King, senior vice president at consulting firm Park Strategies.

Ongoing peace efforts, which include Kim’ssummit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-In last month, may “be moving faster than North Korea ever expected and this is sort of their passive-aggressive excuse to get out of it,” he continued.

No Libya-style denuclearization

Pyonyang will never engage in economic trade with the world’s largest economy in exchange for giving up weapons, KCNA continued, adding that North Korea rejected Libya-style denuclearization.

Libya voluntarily gave up its nuclear ambitions in 2003 in order to get out from under economic sanctions. The country’s dictator Moammar Gadhafi was eventually overthrown in a Western-supported coup and killed in 2011.

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    If Pyongyang follows Libya’s footsteps, its entire existence may be threatened. The country considers nuclear weapons equally important as economic growth so “without the nukes as cover, should it ever want to coerce or invade the South again, it really has nothing to bail themselves out,” according to King.

    Different definitions of the term denuclearization is expected to complicate any international negotiations over the North’s weapons.

    For the U.S., the term means North Korea giving up its entire nuclear arsenal— but Pyongyang may agree to that only if certain conditions are fulfilled, experts warn. Those prerequisites include terminating America’s military presence in South Korea as well as ending the U.S. regional nuclear umbrella.

    If Kim does withdraw from the June 12 meeting, it wouldn’t be the first instance of Pyongyang reversing on its commitments. The isolated state has duped multiple U.S. presidential administrations, each of which has passed the North Korea problem onto the next.

    Under a 1994 deal with President Bill Clinton’s administration, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program but in 2002, the North once again began operating nuclear facilities.

    Trump will remain as a “failed president” if he follows in the steps of his predecessors, KCNA stated on Wednesday.

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