N. Korea threatens to scrap Trump-Kim summit over nuclear demands

Pyongyang says it will call off Trump-Kim meeting if Washington insists on denuclearisation

SEOUL North Korea threw next month's unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump into doubt yesterday, threatening weeks of diplomatic progress by saying it may reconsider if Washington insists on unilateral denuclearisation.

The North's official KCNA news agency said earlier yesterday that Pyongyang had called off high-level talks with Seoul in the first sign of trouble in what had been warming ties.

Citing First Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Gwan, KCNA later said the fate of the US-North Korea summit, as well as bilateral relations, "would be clear" if Washington spoke of a "Libya-style" denuclearisation for the North.

"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 a dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-US summit," he said, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"We have already stated our intention for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearisation is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the US."

The statements, combined with joint military drills by South Korean and US warplanes, mark a dramatic reversal in tone from recent months when both sides embraced efforts to negotiate.

North Korea had said it would publicly shut its nuclear test site next week. Mr Trump and Mr Kim are scheduled to meet in Singapore on June 12.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the US would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.

However, Mr Kim Kye Gwan's statement appeared to reject such an arrangement, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear programme for economic trade with the US.

A cancellation of the summit in Singapore could see tensions on the Korean peninsula flare again even as investors worry about China-US trade friction.

"This will weigh on the Korean reconstruction beneficiaries that have had a strong run on peace and even reunification hopes recently," JP Morgan analysts wrote in a note.

South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Hwa spoke to Mr Pompeo by telephone earlier yesterday and discussed North Korea's postponement of the talks that day, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Mr Pompeo told Ms Kang that Washington would continue to make preparations for the US-North Korea summit, bearing in mind the recent action, it said.

Mr Kim Kye Gwan's statement came only hours after North Korea denounced the US-South Korean military exercises as a provocation and pulled out of the talks with the South.

An earlier KCNA report attacked the Max Thunder air combat drills, which it said involved US stealth fighters and B-52 bombers.

Mr Trump has raised expectations for a successful meeting even as many analysts have been sceptical about the chances of bridging the gap.

Mr Kim Kye Gwan singled out comments by US National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has suggested a so-called Libya model, under which North Korea would quickly hand over its nuclear arsenal to the US or other countries.

"(The) world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq, which have met miserable fate," Mr Kim Kye Gwan said. "It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development."

The latest move could be aimed at testing Mr Trump's willingness to make concessions ahead of the summit, which is to be preceded by a visit to Washington next week by South Korean President Moon Jae In. - REUTERS