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North Korea nuclear crisis

North Korea again threatens to back out of Trump summit, calls Pence ‘ignorant and stupid’

North Korea’s lambasts US Vice-President Mike Pence who warned it would be a ‘great mistake’ for Kim Jong-un to try and play Donald Trump

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 12:01pm

North Korea called US Vice-President Mike Pence “ignorant and stupid” for his warnings over a planned summit with Donald Trump, renewing a threat to cancel as the US president said the fate of the historic talks will be decided next week.

Trump is due to meet his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 for high stakes talks aimed at ridding the reclusive state of its newly acquired nuclear weapons and improving ties after decades of animosity.

The summit announcement came after months of unusually cordial diplomacy between the historic foes brokered by South Korea.

But the new-found bonhomie and the meeting’s potential success has been thrown into doubt in recent days with both Washington and Pyongyang raising the prospect of cancelling the talks and trading threats.

The latest broadside from North Korea came Thursday with vice-minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui lambasting a Monday media interview in which Pence warned Kim that it would be a “great mistake” to try and play Trump.

Pence also said North Korea could end up like Libya, whose former leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed by US-backed rebels years after giving up atomic weapons, “if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal”.

“I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president,” Choe said in a statement released by the state-run KCNA news agency.

“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, adding she would recommend Kim cancel the talks if Washington continues to make such threats.

Similar comments comparing North Korea to Libya from Trump’s hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton caused the first threat by Pyongyang last week to cancel the Singapore meeting.

“Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behaviour of the United States,” Choe added.

Politically, Trump has invested heavily in the success of the planned summit, and so privately most US officials, as well as outside observers, believe it will go ahead.

Hand-picked aides – including deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel – are travelling to Singapore which is expected to host the summit, officials said.

They are expected to meet their North Korean counterparts and iron out details of the meeting.

On Wednesday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Trump’s plan to meet with Kim next month, was still in place.

As part of its own charm offensive, North Korea invited some foreign journalists to witness the slated destruction of the isolated regime’s nuclear test site.

The gesture, which experts agree would do little to curb North Korea’s long-term nuclear capabilities, is meant to signal that the regime is serious about change.

Pyongyang said it planned to “completely” destroy the Punggye-ri facility in the country’s northeast when it made the surprise announcement earlier this month.

The demolition is due to take place sometime between Thursday and Friday, depending on the weather.