SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Wednesday threatened to scrap a historic summit next month between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and U.S. President Donald Trump, saying it has no interest in a "one-sided" affair meant to pressure the North to abandon its nuclear weapons.
The warning by North Korea's first vice foreign minister came hours after the country abruptly canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea to protest U.S.-South Korean military exercises that the North has long claimed are an invasion rehearsal.
The surprise moves appear to cool what had been an unusual flurry of outreach from a country that last year conducted a provocative series of weapons tests that had many fearing the region was on the edge of war. Analysts said it's unlikely that North Korea intends to scuttle all diplomacy. More likely, they said, is that it wants to gain leverage ahead of the talks between Kim and Trump, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration is "still hopeful" that a planned summit with North Korea will take place.
Sanders said Wednesday that threats from the North to scrap the meeting were "something that we fully expected."
Sanders said President Donald Trump is "ready for very tough negotiations," adding that "if they want to meet, we'll be ready and if they don't that's OK." She said if there is no meeting, the U.S. would "continue with the campaign of maximum pressure" against the North.
North Korean first vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement carried by state media that "we are no longer interested in a negotiation that will be all about driving us into a corner and making a one-sided demand for us to give up our nukes and this would force us to reconsider whether we would accept the North Korea-U.S. summit meeting."
He criticized recent comments by Trump's top security adviser, John Bolton, and other U.S. officials who have said the North should follow the "Libyan model" of nuclear disarmament and provide a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement." He also took issue with U.S. views that the North should fully relinquish its biological and chemical weapons.
Some analysts say bringing up Libya, which dismantled its rudimentary nuclear program in the 2000s in exchange for sanctions relief, jeopardizes progress in negotiations with the North. Kim Jong Un took power weeks after former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's gruesome death at the hands of rebel forces amid a popular uprising in October 2011. The North has frequently used Gadhafi's death to justify its own nuclear development in the face of perceived U.S. threats.
The North's warning Wednesday fits a past North Korean pattern of raising tensions to bolster its positions ahead of negotiations with Washington and Seoul. But the country also has a long history of scrapping deals with its rivals at the last minute.
In 2013, North Korea abruptly canceled reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War just days before they were scheduled to begin to protest what it called rising animosities ahead of joint drills between Seoul and Washington. In 2012, the North conducted a prohibited long-range rocket launch weeks after it agreed to suspend weapons tests in return for food assistance.
On Wednesday, senior officials from the two Koreas were to sit down at a border village to discuss how to implement their leaders' recent agreements to reduce military tensions along their heavily fortified border and improve overall ties. But hours before the meeting was to start, the North informed the South that it would "indefinitely suspend" the talks, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.