Donald Trump promises Kim Jong-un power and riches if he plays along – and death like Libya’s Gaddafi if he doesn’t
US President Donald Trump tried to put his summit with Kim Jong-un back on track on Thursday, offering the North Korean leader guarantees of staying in power if he abandons nuclear weapons – but threatening a grisly death if he refuses.
As prospects for a historic summit next month between the two leaders dimmed, Trump told reporters that if the meeting were to go ahead successfully, Kim “will get protections that will be very strong”, and that “He’d be in his country and running his country. His country would be very rich.”
But the pledge came barbed with a warning that if diplomacy fails, Kim could suffer the same fate as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who was overthrown and killed by rebels following a Nato-backed coup.
Libya has been invoked repeatedly by Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, as a road map for dealing with North Korean denuclearisation.
In 2003, Gaddafi agreed to the elimination of his country’s nuclear programme and chemical weapons arsenal to gain sanctions relief. But Pyongyang appeared to zero in on what happened a decade later during the Libyan military intervention, when Nato-backed rebels ousted the government and killed Gaddafi.
On Thursday, Trump – while sitting at arm’s length from Bolton in the Oval Office – denied Bolton’s claims, saying: “The Libyan model isn’t a model that we have [in mind]at all when we’re thinking of North Korea.
“If you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him,” he said, whereas “if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.”
However, he warned, the Libyan model “would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely”.
On Wednesday, North Korean first vice-foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement that Bolton’s assertions were “a manifestation of awfully sinister move” that would mean “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards”.
North Korea is “a nuclear weapon state” that is “neither Libya nor Iraq, which have met miserable fates”, Kim said in the statement carried by state news agency KCNA.
Kim said North Korea’s condition for denuclearisation talks is to “put an end to the anti-[North Korea] hostile policies and the nuclear threat and blackmail of the United States”.
Also on Wednesday, Pyongyang cancelled a planned meeting with South Korean officials and warned that the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore on June 12 might go the same way.
North Korea said it was incensed by the annual US-South Korea joint military drills that started on Monday, which it characterised as a plot to overthrow Kim.
The drills are routine and were planned long before the Trump-Kim meeting was arranged.
Although the Kim-Trump summit remains up in the air, preparations are continuing.
“North Korea is actually talking to us about times and everything else as though nothing happened,” said Trump.
“We are continuing to negotiate in terms of location … where to meet, how to meet, rooms, everything else and negotiating like nothing happened.”
Trump also claimed on Thursday that North Korea’s apparent about-face may have been at the behest of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“It could very well be that he’s influencing Kim Jong-un,” Trump said, citing a recent meeting between the pair, their second in a month’s time. “We’ll see what happens.”
Additional reporting from Zhenhua Lu, US correspondent.