China hopeful of Kim-Trump summit after North Korea threatens pullout

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A F16 fighter, top, of the US Air Force takes off during the Seventh Air Force and the 8th Fighter Wing Max Thunder exercise at the eighth Fighter Wing in Gunsan, South Korea, in this April 20, 2017 file photo. — EPA

SEOUL/BEIJING — China said on Wednesday that North Korea and the United States should hold their historic summit as planned after Pyongyang threatened to pull out of the highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

North Korea also canceled high-level talks due on Wednesday with Seoul over the Max Thunder joint military exercises being held between the US and South Korea, denouncing the drills as a “rude and wicked provocation”.

“The situation on the peninsula has eased up, which is worth cherishing,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

“We hope... some of the high-level meetings that (the two sides) have been working towards can be held smoothly and... results can be achieved,” he said.

“Only in this way can the easing up of the peninsula be consolidated, contributing to peace and stability in the region.”

North Korea threatened on Wednesday to withdraw from the June 12 summit in Singapore if Washington seeks to push Pyongyang into unilaterally giving up its nuclear arsenal.

The North’s official KCNA news agency said earlier Pyongyang had called off high-level talks with Seoul in the first sign of trouble in what had been warming ties.

Kim specifically criticized US national security adviser John Bolton, who has called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that mirrors Libya’s abandonment of its weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea previously clashed with Bolton when he worked under the Bush administration, calling him “human scum” and a “bloodsucker”.

“We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him,” Kim said.

The statements, combined with joint military drills by South Korean and US warplanes, mark a dramatic reversal in tone from recent months when both sides embraced efforts to negotiate.

North Korea had announced it would publicly shut its nuclear test site next week. Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet in Singapore on June 12.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the United States would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

However, Kim Kye Gwan’s statement appeared to reject such an arrangement, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear program in exchange for economic trade with the United States.

“We have already stated our intention for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States,” Kim said.

North Korea has always defended its nuclear and missile programs as a necessary deterrent against perceived aggression by the United States, which stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Asian stock markets dipped after Pyongyang called off the talks with the South that were set for Wednesday. A cancellation of the June 12 summit in Singapore could see tensions flare again even as investors worry about China-US trade friction.

“This will weigh on the Korean reconstruction beneficiaries that have had a strong run on peace and even reunification hopes recently,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa spoke to Pompeo by telephone on Wednesday and discussed North Korea’s postponement of the talks with the South, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Pompeo told Kang that Washington would continue to make preparations for the USNorth Korea summit, bearing in mind the recent action by North Korea, it said.

Kim Kye Gwan’s statement came only hours after North Korea denounced the US-South Korean military exercises as a provocation and pulled out of the talks with the South. — Agencies


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