Is North Korea Threatening to Cancel? Or Is It Just Media Hype?
Multiple news outlets are reporting that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has canceled a meeting this week with South Korean officials and is also wavering about attending the U.S. Summit after the recent American military drills in South Korea.
“This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” said KCNA, North Korea’s state media outlet. “The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities.”
Last week, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. summit is set for June 12 in Singapore.
“The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!” tweeted Trump.
On Tuesday, the State Department said that they had not received a “formal or even informal notification of anything” regarding the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.
“I will say that Kim Jong Un had said previously that he understands the need and the utility of the United States and the Republic of Korea continuing in its joint exercises. They’re exercises that are legal, and they’re planned well, well in advance,” said Heather Nauert, State Department Spokesperson. “We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that the White House is hopeful that the meeting will still occur, but if it doesn’t, the Trump Administration will adapt.
“The president is ready if the meeting takes place,” said Huckabee to Fox News on Wednesday. “And if it doesn’t, we will continue the maximum pressure campaign that has been ongoing.”
But could this merely be a negotiating tactic by North Korea?
“If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested,” said Kim Kye Gwan, a senior diplomat in a statement to the North Korean state media.
Some argue that North Korea is now concerned about appearing “weak” after recent actions.
“Assessing the North’s recent statements, Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said North Korea had begun to fear looking weak by taking unilateral steps, like its moratorium on missile tests. He noted that the United States, rather than offering concessions of its own, has vowed to keep up its maximum pressure on the North if it fails to quickly denuclearize,” writes the New York Times.
“The last thing Kim Jong-un can afford is to look like he is surrendering his nuclear weapons,” said Koh.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the second time last week and returned with three detained U.S. citizens.
The North Korean media has especially villainized Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton because he has demanded that Pyongyang hand over its nuclear arsenal to the U.S.
In late April, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a fruitful meeting where the leaders agreed to work together to denuclearize the Peninsula.
The Koreas were set to have another meeting this week, but on Wednesday, the South Korea’s Unification Ministry announced in a statement that it was “regrettable that the North unilaterally postponed the talks due to the annual [South Korea-US] joint air combat drills” and that “such action by the North is inconsistent with the fundamental spirit and purpose of the Panmunjeom Declaration agreed by the South and North leaders on April 27.”