Last week, the North’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan threatened to call off the summit saying the North is not interested in any nuclear talks in which it is coerced into giving up its nuclear arsenal.
“With the US continuing to focus on the issue of denuclearization without guaranteeing regime security in a solid manner, on top of National Security Advisor John Bolton’s hawkish remarks, it seems North Korea’s recent threats came for a reason,” Cheong Seong-jang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute, said.
Cheong said that North Korea seeks clearer confirmations from the US on regime security and other concessions it hopes to receive in exchange for nuclear dismantlement, ahead of the summit.
Choe’s statement also comes on the heels of a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump in Washington this week. At the meeting, Trump hinted that he could either postpone or cancel the summit, acknowledging that “there are certain conditions” that the US wants North Korea to meet.
Signs that the US and North Korea have yet to close their perception gap on denuclearization remain visible, as Choe lambasted US Vice President Mike Pence for mentioning a Libya-style approach and military option against the North in a recent media interview.
The US has been pushing for a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the North’s nuclear weapons program, while the North has been calling for a “phased and synchronous” approach.
“US Vice-President Pence has made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya, military option for North Korea never came off the table, the US needs complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, and so on,” she said.
“We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy he is as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them,” she added, using the abbreviation for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea has objected to the “Libyan model,” which calls for a quick dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program with no guarantee of benefits to the regime in the process. It has cited the downfall of Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi, which came less than a decade after the African nation’s voluntary nuclear disarmament in 2003.
Yet, Trump recently said the model wasn’t what he had in mind with North Korea, contradicting his hawkish aides’ remarks.
Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, have repeatedly said they would guarantee Kim’s safety and his current position of power in exchange for denuclearization.
Analysts say that Washington is in the process of mapping out a “Trump model” for the denuclearization of North Korea, which is expected to encompass North Korea‘s “phased approach” and the US’ demand for the speedy verification of the denuclearization process, coupled with a compressed timeline of achieving the denuclearization goal.
Choe also highlighted that it was not the North but the US that has asked for dialogue in the first place.
“It is the US who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us... We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us,” she said.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org