Posted May 18, 2018 06:03:18
North Korea's chief negotiator has called the South Korean Government "ignorant and incompetent", denounced US-South Korean air combat drills and threatened to halt all talks with the South unless its demands are met.
The comments by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country, were the latest in a string of inflammatory statements marking a drastic change in tone after months of easing tension with plans for denuclearisation and a summit scheduled with the United States.
But US President Donald Trump maintained that the meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was still on track, despite a warning from Pyongyang.
North Korea on Wednesday said it might not attend the June 12 summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump in Singapore if the United States continued to demand it unilaterally abandon its nuclear arsenal, which it had developed in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions to counter perceived US hostility.
Mr Trump said North Korean officials were discussing logistical details about the meeting with the US and nothing had changed.
"North Korea is actually talking to us about times and everything else as though nothing happened," Mr Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a picture-taking session with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Mr Trump also said he was not pursuing the so-called "Libya model" in getting North Korea to denuclearise.
His national security adviser, John Bolton, had suggested the Libya model in comments on Sunday, prompting North Korea to threaten to cancel.
Mr Trump said the deal he was looking at would protect Mr Kim, adding that "he would be there, he would be running his country, his country would be very rich".
"The Libya model was a much different model. We decimated that country," he said.
He said the Libya model would only come into play if a deal cannot be reached with North Korea.
"We cannot let that country have nukes. We just can't do it," he said.
Mr Ri criticised the South for participating in the drills, as well as for allowing "human scum" to speak at its National Assembly, the North's KCNA news agency said in a statement.
"Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face to face again with the present regime of south Korea," it said.
KCNA, in its English-language service, deliberately uses lower-case "north" and "south" to show that it only recognises one undivided Korea.
The statement did not identify the "human scum" by name, but Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat to Britain who defected to the South in 2016, held a press conference on Monday at the South Korean National Assembly for the publication of his memoir.
In his memoir, Password from the Third Floor, Mr Thae described North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "impatient, impulsive and violent".
A South Korean presidential Blue House official said the South intended to more actively perform "the role of a mediator" between the United States and North Korea, but that goal as been cast into doubt by Mr Ri's comments.
"On this opportunity, the present south Korean authorities have been clearly proven to be an ignorant and incompetent group devoid of the elementary sense of the present situation," Mr Ri's statement said.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told parliament North Korea and the United States had differences of views over how to achieve denuclearisation.
"It is true that there are differences of opinion between the North and the United States on methods to accomplish denuclearisation," Mr Kang told MPs, according to Yonhap News Agency.
Mr Trump will host South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House on May 22.
The Blue House intended to "sufficiently convey [to the United States] what we've discerned about North Korea's position and attitude … and sufficiently convey the United States' position to North Korea", thereby helping to bridge the gap, the official said.
Japan's Asahi newspaper reported the United States had demanded North Korea ship some nuclear warheads, an intercontinental ballistic missile and other nuclear material overseas within six months.
The newspaper, citing several sources familiar with North Korea, said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to have told the North Korean leader when they met this month that Pyongyang might be removed from a list of state sponsors of terrorism if it complied.
The Asahi also reported that if North Korea agreed to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation at the Singapore summit, Washington was considering giving guarantees for Mr Kim's regime.
China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, said the measures North Korea had taken to ease tension should be acknowledged, and all other parties, especially the United States, should cherish the opportunity for peace.
Cancellation of the summit, the first between US and North Korean leaders, would deal a major blow to what could be the biggest diplomatic achievement of Mr Trump's presidency.
North Korea said it was pulling out of the talks with South Korea after denouncing US-South Korean "Max Thunder" air combat drills, which it said involved US stealth fighters, B-52 bombers and "nuclear assets".
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday, UN 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."