U.S. President Donald Trump Photo: REUTERS
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Trump says 'We'll see' on N Korea summit, but insists on denuclearization

42 Comments
By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland

U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged on Wednesday it was unclear if his summit with North Korea would go ahead after Pyongyang threatened to pull out of the unprecedented meeting, a move that could deny him a potentially major foreign policy achievement.

North Korea threw into doubt the June 12 summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and Trump on Wednesday, saying it might not attend if Washington continues to demand it unilaterally abandon its nuclear arsenal. North Korea also called off talks with South Korea scheduled for Wednesday, blaming U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

"We'll have to see," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if the summit was still on, though he insisted he would not back down from his demand for North Korea's denuclearization.

"No decision, we haven't been notified at all ... We haven't seen anything, we haven't heard anything," he said.

Trump's muted response was in marked contrast to just a few days ago when he exulted over North Korea's release of three Americans, welcoming them home with praise for Kim and an expression of high hopes that the summit would produce"something very meaningful."

Trump's aides - who, according to one U.S. official, were caught off guard by North Korea's warning - were working on Wednesday to determine whether it was a negotiating ploy by Pyongyang or an attempt to scuttle the summit.

Cancellation of the summit, the first between U.S. and North Korean leaders, would deal a major blow to what would be the biggest diplomatic achievement of Trump's presidency. This comes at a time when his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has drawn criticism internationally and his move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has fueled deadly violence on the Israel-Gaza border.

Trump has raised expectations for the summit even as many analysts have been sceptical about the chances of bridging the gap because of questions about North Korea's willingness to give up a nuclear arsenal that it says can hit the United States.

The White House said it was still hopeful the summit would take place, but Trump was prepared for a tough negotiation.

"The president is ready if the meeting takes place," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News. "If it doesn't, we'll continue the maximum pressure campaign that's been ongoing."

Sanders said the North Korean comments were "not something that is out of the ordinary in these types of operations." Pyongyang has a long history of threatening to walk away from negotiations if it does not get its way.

North Korea's first vice minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye Gwan, cast doubt on whether the summit, which is set for Singapore, would be held.

He specifically criticized U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, who has called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that would mirror Libya's abandonment of its program for weapons of mass destruction.

"If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the ... summit," he said.

North Korea clashed with Bolton when he worked under the Bush administration.

"We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him," Kim, the vice minister, said.

In an interview with Fox News Radio, Bolton brushed aside the remarks against him and said odds were still in favor of the summit going ahead.

"We are going to do everything we can to come to a successful meeting, but we are not going to back away from the objective of that meeting which is complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea," he said.

Sanders appeared reluctant to endorse the Libya model that the hawkish Bolton has touted, most recently on U.S. television news programs on Sunday.

She said the model that would be followed was "the President Trump model." "He's going to run this the way he sees fit. We're 100 percent confident ... he's the best negotiator."

Kim Kye Gwan derided as "absurd" Bolton's suggestion that discussions with North Korea should be similar to those that led to components of Libya's nuclear program being shipped to the United States in 2004.

"(The) world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met a miserable fate," Kim said in an apparent reference to the demises of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Iraqi former president Saddam Hussein.

He said North Korea was a nuclear weapon state while Libya had been at the initial stage of nuclear development.

The North Korean statements marked a dramatic reversal in tone from recent months.

North Korea had announced it would publicly shut its nuclear test site next week and also improved the mood for a summit by releasing the three detained Americans last week.

Some analysts and U.S. officials believe North Korea may be testing Trump’s willingness to soften the U.S. demand for complete denuclearization for the summit, which has prompted the president’s supporters to suggest he deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

North Korea could also be trying to capitalize on an apparent gap in messaging between Bolton and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo, who returned from his second visit to Pyongyang last week with the freed Americans, has taken a softer line than Bolton, stressing the economic benefits, possibly including U.S. investment, that could flow to the country if it agrees to denuclearize.

Kim Kye Gwan's statement appeared to reject such promises, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear program in exchange for trade with the United States.

"We have already stated our intention for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States," Kim said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea defends its nuclear and missile programs as a deterrent against perceived aggression by the United States, which keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

It has long said it is open to eventually giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States withdraws its troops from South Korea and ends its “nuclear umbrella” alliance with Seoul.

"This statement targets Bolton, and threatens the administration’s entire strategy. Suggests NK has not radically changed its strategy, & econ. inducements will not convince them to denuke," tweeted Abraham Denmark, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.

During his talks with Kim last week, Pompeo dealt more with summit logistics and the fate of the three American detainees instead of focusing on questions such as the two sides’ differing definitions of “denuclearization," according to U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Pompeo may have wanted to avoid aggravating tensions before Kim ordered the release of the prisoners, who flew home on the diplomat’s plane.

Pompeo and Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan spoke by phone on Wednesday about the planned summit, the State Department said.

North Korea said it was pulling out of the talks with South Korea after denouncing U.S.-South Korean "Max Thunder" air combat drills, which it said involved U.S. stealth fighters, B-52 bombers and "nuclear assets".

American stealth F-22 fighters were spotted in South Korea in May, but the U.S. military command in South Korea said no B-52s were scheduled to take part.

A South Korean defense ministry official said the drills would go on as planned.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “I hope that in the end common sense will prevail, and the summit will take place and it will be successful."

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2018.

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments
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It's hard to decide what is less surprising about this news. Is it that Kim keeps moving the goalposts? Or is it that he also announced that while he's willing to end nuclear testing, he's not willing to give up the nukes he already has? Whichever it is, Kim's "reason" for threatening to walk away is complete nonsense. The U.S. and South Korea conduct these exercises every year, at around the same time, and that fact was not a secret when discussions about a meeting first began. What's really happening is that Kim is running the same playbook that his father and grandfather both did. Hold out an olive branch, then keep moving it just out of reach in an effort to gain more and more concessions. This is why most presidents aren't even willing to talk to him; they (or their staff) have read a history book or two, and they know that dealing with Kim is like dealing with a slippery snake while standing on a slippery slope.

Kim now has Donald Trump just where he wants him...

This guy. What a negotiator.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

We need to keep Trump as quiet as possible.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

I wrote this three days ago. I'll bold what I got right and italicize what I got wrong:

So, Kim is trying to turn the lemon of his collapsed nuclear site at Mantapsan into lemonade. That is an important idea rooted in two facts: 1) the site is now useless. 2) Kim wants to horse-trade. There is nothing wrong with that. That's rational.

What is not rational is for the US, ROK and Japan to give him too much for what is in reality a pig in a poke. Trump seems so needy to get a Win, he's gonna lie and try to pass this off as if he made the North bend to his knee. Laughable, yes. But it will work, because propaganda works.

Finally, it is crazy for Trump in his desperation for a photo op that will change nothing to to work towards the erosion of the US Japan and US ROK relationship. And that is exactly what is happening with a bilateral summit.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

We need to keep Trump as quiet as possible.

No, we don't need to keep Trump quiet. Kim is testing the President every which way possible to see if there are any weak points where he can get leverage, this is so typical of NK. If Trump gives in an inch, Kim will have a bit of leverage and that is something that can't happen. If Kim is really and truly serious he will continue to go on the path of slow denuclearization and anything else is non-negotiable. If Kim doesn't want to undertake any of these steps then so be it, that is his choice. He will just endure even more crippling sanctions, because in the end, everyone has a breaking point. We have time, he doesn't. We have money, he doesn't as much anymore.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

When Trump says, "We'll see," it means, "I have no idea what I'm doing and am basically just trying to bluff my way through this."

8 ( +11 / -3 )

As usual and expected, the North Koreans are playing games. As Trumps says, "let's see what happens". South Korea is not going to stop joint exercises before any agreement is reached. The United States is not going to give up it's nuclear weapons in exchange for North Korea giving up it's nuclear weapons. The U.S. has not maintained nuclear weapons in South Korea since 1991. Let's see how far North Korea wants to play this game.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

When Trump says, "We'll see," it means, "I have no idea what I'm doing and am basically just trying to bluff my way through this."

Of course, because he has various options, retry to talk some sense into the fat kids head or increase the sanctions, or proceed with the drill, get in his face, be firm and if all else fails, there is the military option. So being being indecisive is actually a good and cautionary thing to do.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

I don’t see what increased sanctions will do since China will guarantee their solvency.

Heres my random guess with no insider information....

China just armed their artificial island and is making threats to Taiwan. They are growing more confrontational in the region and US ships and planes passing over the imaginary lines on the map makes a mockery of it.

KJU offers up his nukes in exchange for economic incentives, and any agreement to denuclearize will include reducing the number of US troops and hardware in the region. That makes it easier for China to become the dominant player faster while also taking the burden of NK off the books.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Who is playing games? Donald Trump! He scrapped the nuclear deal with Iran signed by Obama, perhaps he has no idea of what is a committment but the whole world should know nothing from his administration is trustworthy and a peace assurance to North Korea totally a joke!

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Apparently Kim is unwilling to give up his second amendment rights. ;)

A reminder for those who have been starting to feel nostalgic about George W. Bush; He was the one who elevated crazy John Bolton to the status of diplomatic and national security expert!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Trump must not take a soft line on this as NK is in a position of strength now.

Many things have aligned such as a powerful ally in China, SK recent warming up to and the extreme position of power that President Moon is now in with his 90% approval ratings. If the North can pressure the South to have the USA make concessions, it could be bad.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I don’t see what increased sanctions will do since China will guarantee their solvency.

NK has a lot of money in various businesses tied to Kim's sole economy, China can try, but the sanctions that the US imposed has already greatly weakened the country. The Trump admin. has been extremely heavy handed when it comes to putting the heaviest pressure on the North and if China wants to try to compensate in guaranteeing their sovereignty, good luck.

China just armed their artificial island and is making threats to Taiwan. They are growing more confrontational in the region and US ships and planes passing over the imaginary lines on the map makes a mockery of it.

As they should.

KJU offers up his nukes in exchange for economic incentives, and any agreement to denuclearize will include reducing the number of US troops and hardware in the region.

That will never happen at least not in the foreseeable future.

That makes it easier for China to become the dominant player faster while also taking the burden of NK off the books.

Not so sure, they will try, but that's it, they will try. For all the bolster that China is a big growing threat is a lot of hot air, the big difference and the advantage that the US has is fighting wars over the last 100 years, it doesn't matter how big your military is if you don't have years and years of actual usage or knowledge on the battlefield.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

A reminder for those who have been starting to feel nostalgic about George W. Bush; He was the one who elevated crazy John Bolton to the status of diplomatic and national security expert!

Thank God, the man had the sense to do that and I will be grateful for that forever!

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

If N Korea hates Bolton that’s great. I would have him sit right next to Trump at the meeting. We ((USA) actually mean business this time, it’s quite obvious.

The meeting will of course go on as planned it’s just posturing before the meeting for politics and to save “face”.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Bolton is a reminder of what happened to Gaddafi. Of course the DPRK is wavering.

Bolton is a hawk and one had hoped he'd been put out to pasture.

But this is where we are, elderly rich white men dictating to the rest of the planet.

Much as I despise the DPRK leadership and oppressive regime, I don't blame their stance at all.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Well didn’t take long for NK to make moves to undermine this upcoming summit. I think it’s becoming clear they never had any intention of denuclearizing.

If that is the case, then the military option is all that’s left. NK has already wasted enough time with this farce

4 ( +7 / -3 )

“We’ll see”

wow such eloquent words from the DEAL MAKER himself. :-/

is it just me or is trumps vocabulary limited to mostly one or two syllable words!?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

So the summit will happen pretty close where Kim had his brother killed?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Well didn’t take long for NK to make moves to undermine this upcoming summit. I think it’s becoming clear they never had any intention of denuclearizing.

That's very possible. It's also very possible they did, but the US and SK tanked it by rubbing their anti-NK war games in NKs face while pretending to court peace. We'll never know which, though it's likely a combination of both.

This is why the US screwed up by having these games, because now if the planned talks fall apart, it cannot be blamed solely on North Korea. It just gives NK propaganda to feed their own war machine.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Giuliani legal advisor to Trump. Appears on TV and went public with the presidents Stormy affair much to the dislike of the president. War dog Bolton appointed a security advisor. Another one who second guessed Trump and went public over NK. Bolton said NK give everything up before reaching any agreements with America. Trump countered by saying it wasn't correct. Why do these guys need to be so public.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Bass: That will never happen at least not in the foreseeable future.

My guess is that that’s the point of it all, to reduce the US footprint in the region. KJU isn’t going to offer his nukes up unless he gets something in return.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

bass4funk

the advantage that the US has is fighting wars over the last 100 years, it doesn't matter how big your military is if you don't have years and years of actual usage or knowledge on the battlefield.

all that killing in the name of freedom and democracy yes?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Donnie is ALL about style. His horizontal beehive mullett with a ducktail has set the standard for haute coiffure among 71 year-old balding lard butts.

Trump obviously never played poker ‘cause if he did he wouldn’t have shown all his cards before the game even started. T&Co. are being played by experts at poker & diplomacy. The boisterous, narcissistic boy that resides in that overblown body will never learn anything about honesty, character or decency ‘cause he has none. It’s way too late. What a pathetic excuse for a human being.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Bolton is a reminder of what happened to Gaddafi. Of course the DPRK is wavering. 

Yup, they can do that, the US has time and money, NK doesn’t.

Bolton is a hawk and one had hoped he'd been put out to pasture. 

Then an you don’t know Bolton, in fact, he doubled down on his positions.

But this is where we are, elderly rich white men dictating to the rest of the planet.

Oh, once again it’s about race? It just couldn’t be because of Kim threatening to Nuke the US or Iran wanting to vaporize Israel, it has to be about race, the angry White man again? ROFL.

Much as I despise the DPRK leadership and oppressive regime, I don't blame their stance at all.

I don’t either, but it won’t help them no matter how the little man talks tough.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

all that killing in the name of freedom and democracy yes?

Sometimes you need war to keep the peace.

My guess is that that’s the point of it all, to reduce the US footprint in the region.

Like I said, it would not happen, not as long as you and are on breathing on this planet. You can forget that.

KJU isn’t going to offer his nukes up unless he gets something in return.

Probably won’t happen, not that he’ll be in any position to dictate the terms. His financial resources are a dwindling very fast and he’s running out of options. So like fishing for a Marlin, you hook him, let him fight it out, do nothing, let him get tired and you slowly bring him in, you don’t need a lot of effort, that part is done, just strength to reel him in.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Peace, hold on the Nobel!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Sometimes you need war to keep the peace.

and many times you don't

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Pyongyang has a long history of threatening to walk away from negotiations if it does not get its way.

And so does Trump (paris, iran, tpp)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

John Bolton BLEW IT for him! "You owe me a Nobel!"

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sometimes you need war to keep the peace.

And who is going to pay for the trillions for this war?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Oh, once again it’s about race? It just couldn’t be because of Kim threatening to Nuke the US or Iran wanting to vaporize Israel, it has to be about race, the angry White man again? ROFL.

Look at all the places your country has targetted in the past.

Why should anyone trust the words that come out of your leaders mouths?

It was a spectacularly dense idea to continue the military excercises and for PotUS to trumpet his non-achievement and bask in the glory of an unlikely Nobel.

Bolton's Libya comparison was the icing on this big cake of stupid.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

You'd think that, just this once, the exercise would be suspended while these talks were planned? Bit like agreeing to meet your girlfriend on a date but you bring the family along as well...

When playing with fire, leave the petrol at home.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

 We ((USA) actually mean business this time, it’s quite obvious.

Business as a euphemism for War?

No, the U.S. can't unilaterally go to war without violating treaties.

If things were so obvious, why the need for diplomats or meetings or marlin fishing (??). A stern scowl or tweet from the orangutan should do the job.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

We ((USA) actually mean business this time, it’s quite obvious.

Please elaborate. Go to war? What does this mean, exactly? Trump is failing again, like his wall.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

And who is going to pay for the trillions for this war?

Don’t talk about money when war is concerned.

Missiles flying on Fox News is pure bliss. You shouldn’t put a price tag on that or think about the human cost.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Look at all the places your country has targetted in the past. 

Why should anyone trust the words that come out of your leaders mouths? 

That's the chance boxed dictators have to live with, that's the price they have to take for being a dictator, No one told them to take the position. No one told them to kill, torture and violate every human right known to mankind.

It was a spectacularly dense idea to continue the military excercises and for PotUS to trumpet his non-achievement and bask in the glory of an unlikely Nobel.

No, it wasn't a bad idea, we have been taking part of these exercises for years and Kim knows that, so either he's the dumbest person on the planet or he's playing the President. Kim is looking for weakness in Trump and testing him if he will in someway concede to something and Trump said, full denuclearization or nothing except more crippling sanctions.

Bolton's Libya comparison was the icing on this big cake of stupid.

No, he's right, if anything, Kim is more worried about Bolton than Trump and with good reason.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Missiles flying on Fox News is pure bliss.

Nonsense, no one wants to see a war, but if it has to be....

You shouldn’t put a price tag on that or think about the human cost.

You consider that and you also need to consider the people in the country that are oppressed, while the liberals scream and moan and complain and do whatever idiotic nonsense they do, they never have any solutions, ever accept for appeasement, concessions and showing a lot of yellow.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The President Trump shouldn't meet with N. Korean dictator fatty kid Kim Jong-un. There's no reason to meet with Kim Jong-un if N. Korean doesn't want to give up its nuclear weapons.

Now the US has to drop bunker buster on Kim Jong-un instead of given publicity by meeting with him.

The former N. Korean diplomat who defect to UK was right about N. Korean regime strategy and N. Korean regime will never give up its nuclear weapons. The N. Korean regime will blame the American if the meeting was canceled.

After direct dropping bunker buster bomb on the Kim Jong-un, denuclearization in Korean peninsula will be easier and faster than Kim Jong-un denuclearize his country by himself.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

they never have any solutions

Sure we do. We got healthcare, agreements with Iran, the TPP (nearly), the Paris Accords, etc. Now you might not like those deals, but it takes strong leadership to coordinate responses between nations and get an agreement.

Trump doesn’t do that, He just blows stuff up and walks away while muttering something about “something better” coming along at some point in the future. He can’t even get his wall built and the GOP controls the government.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

but if it has to be....

.....and who is going to pay these trillions (with a "T"). Is there oil in NK? Also, lots of American blood spilled.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sure we do. We got healthcare, agreements with Iran, the TPP (nearly), the Paris Accords, etc.

Ok, so nothing really important.

Now you might not like those deals, but it takes strong leadership to coordinate responses between nations and get an agreement.

Yes, but for now Knowing what we know from the Iranians true intentions as revealed by Mossad, the best thing that Trump have done was to blow this stupid deal up, should have never been made in the first place.

Trump doesn’t do that, He just blows stuff up and walks away while muttering something about “something better” coming along at some point in the future.

Yup, I would too.

He can’t even get his wall built and the GOP controls the government.

One stone at a time.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

More like

"One stoned at a time."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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