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North Korea Follows One Threat With a Second

Newser — Kate Seamons

North Korea is ratcheting up its threats—and potentially inching away from the table. After canceling high-level talks with South Korea planned for Wednesday and warning the US it could cancel Kim Jong Un's meeting with President Trump over joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, another wrinkle.

The Guardian reports Pyongyang is adding to the list of things that could imperil the planned June 12 summit: A statement released by KCNA on Wednesday says the North would bow out if the US maintains its "one-sided demand for us to give up our nukes." The report quotes first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan, and the New York Times has the statement in full.

More on what it says, and reaction to it:

  • The statement references the "so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment" on more than one occasion, saying US comments about complete denuclearization amount to "a manifestation of awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers. ... It is absolutely absurd to dare compare [North Korea], a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial state of nuclear development."


  • Time addresses the Libya angle, explaining the fact that Moammar Gadhafi "was toppled with US backing despite acquiescing to demands to denuclearize has long been a thorn in US efforts to reach a deal with North Korea—one likely sharpened by Trump's recent decision to nix a hard-fought denuclearization deal with Iran."
  • Reuters notes the statement also offered harsh words about US national security adviser John Bolton, who has been promoting a Libya-style denuclearization.

"We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him," it read, with Reuters recalling North Korea having called Bolton "human scum" when he worked for the Bush administration.

  • At the Times, Gerry Mullany sees "a pattern by the unpredictable regime," and outlines five other times when North Korea "did a sudden about-face." Read them here.
  • A senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists offers his take to the Guardian: "The North Koreans know how to make an explicit threat. By their standards, this is pretty circumspect. It could very well be a play for additional leverage or to see how the Trump team reacts."
  • At Time, Korea expert Professor Stephan Haggard echoes that but sees a second possibility: That Kim has "gotten cold feet—they just want an out."
  • As for the South, Yonhap reports South Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "held emergency phone talks Wednesday in a show of solidarity against North Korea's renewed brinkmanship." The Guardian reports the joint US-South Korean military exercises, codenamed Max Thunder, started Friday and will continue.

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