North Korea threatened to pull out of next month’s summit with the United States over demands that it agree to immediate and unilateral denuclearization.
In a statement Wednesday from North Korea’s First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Gwan, Pyongyang accused the U.S. of jeopardizing the current détente with unrealistic demands and “unbridled remarks.”
And here it is: the English-language translation of N. Korea’s latest statement, taking aim pretty clearly at John Bolton. pic.twitter.com/Utl8vYStVB
— Jonathan Cheng (@JChengWSJ) May 16, 2018
Gwan pointed specifically to commentary from White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has repeatedly called for using a “Libya-style” denuclearization model for North Korea.
“High-ranking officials of the White House and the Department of State including Bolton, White House national security adviser, are letting loose the assertions of so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment,” Gwan said.
WH Nat’l Security Adviser John Bolton tells @MarthaRaddatz permanent, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization “has to happen before the benefits start to flow” to North Korea. “We want to see the denuclearization process so completely underway that it’s irreversible.” pic.twitter.com/v4YWZJ3kzj
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) May 13, 2018
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi voluntarily ended his country’s pursuit of nuclear weapons at the behest of the U.S. in 2003 in exchange for relief from economic sanctions – only to be later overthrown and killed by U.S.-backed insurgents in 2011.
When asked about the Libya nuclear deal during the U.S.-backed campaign in the country, Bolton, who even called for Gaddafi’s assassination at the time, suggested the deal was never meant to provide protection “in perpetuity.”
“Nobody at the time thought it was a get-out-of-jail-free card in perpetuity,” Bolton said.
North Korea pointed to the death of Gadaffi as proof of U.S. ill will and as yet another reason for needing a credible nuclear deterrent.
“It was fully exposed before the world that ‘Libya’s nuclear dismantlement,’ much touted by the U.S. in the past, turned out to be a mode of aggression whereby the latter coaxed the former with such sweet words as ‘guarantee of security’ and ‘improvement of relations’ to disarm itself and then swallowed it up by force,” North Korean media said in 2011.
Analysts have accused Bolton of proposing the Libya model in an attempt to derail the upcoming summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Bolton is no doubt already telling Trump ‘See, I told you so,’” arms control expert Kingston Reif argued on Twitter Tuesday. “Bolton knew exactly what he was doing in repeatedly setting the (wildly unrealistic) expectation for the summit at immediate, Libya-style denuclearization – in return for nothing until that is achieved.”
Bolton, who has long advocated for military action against North Korea, admitted in a March interview with Fox News that his support of the summit stemmed purely from his belief that it would ultimately fail.
Gwan further noted in his Wednesday statement that Libya’s nuclear program, which never produced a nuclear weapon, is not comparable to North Korea’s.
“World knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate. It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development,” Gwan wrote. “We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him.”
North Korea, which has never publicly stated an intention to hand over its nuclear weapons, continued to stand by its original proposal: the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, meaning, at minimum, the removal of South Korea from the U.S. nuclear umbrella, once the U.S. hostile policy ends.
Gwan also stressed that North Korea’s latest actions, including its freeze on missile and nuclear weapons testing as well as the planned closure of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, came not as the result of international sanctions but from Pyongyang’s completion of its nuclear force.
“[T]he U.S. is miscalculating the magnanimity and broad-minded initiatives of the DPRK as signs of weakness and trying to embellish and advertise as if these are the product of its sanctions and pressure,” Gwan said. “The U.S. is trumpeting as if it would offer economic compensation and benefit in case we abandon nuke. But we have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in future, either.”
The statement closed with North Korea’s clearest explanation yet of its unwillingness to relinquish its nuclear weapons based on U.S. demands.
“If the Trump administration takes an approach to the DPRK-U.S. summit with sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations, it will receive a deserved response from us,” Gwan said. “However, 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 DPRK-U.S. summit.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded by stating the Trump administration remains hopeful that the summit, set for June 12 in Singapore, will still take place.
Sanders also attempted to distance Trump from Bolton’s comments when questioned by reporters, arguing she had no knowledge of the Libya model being used for North Korea.
“I haven’t seen that as part of any discussions, so I’m not aware that that’s a model that we’re using…” Sanders said. “This is the President Trump model. He’s going to run this the way he sees fit.”