Asia-Pacific

North Korean official slams 'ignorant and stupid' Pence remarks

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A senior North Korean Minister has labelled comments made by US Vice-President Mike Pence as "stupid".

North Korea hit out at US Vice President Mike Pence Thursday, calling him "ignorant and stupid" as the reclusive state made a renewed threat to cancel an upcoming summit between the two countries.

Choe Son Hui, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, released a statement via the state-run KCNA news agency lambasting a recent media interview Pence gave to Fox News.

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Trump willing to walk away from North Korea summit: Pence
Trump willing to walk away from North Korea summit: Pence

"I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president," she said in the statement.

In his Monday interview with Fox, Pence warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that it would be a "great mistake" to try and play Washington ahead of a planned summit with President Donald Trump next month in Singapore.

File image of Mike Pence
File image of Mike Pence
AAP

He also said North Korea could end up like Libya, whose former leader Moamer Khadafi was killed in an uprising years after giving up atomic weapons, "if Kim Jong-un doesn't make a deal".

Choe responded to that interview with an angrily worded statement in which she slammed the "unbridled and impudent remarks" from Pence, adding Pyongyang would not be forced to the table by threats from Washington's leadership.

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"We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us," she said.

"In case the US offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-U.S. summit," she added, using the initials of North Korea's official name.

It comes as US President Donald Trump said he would know next week whether his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would take place on June 12 in Singapore as scheduled, casting further doubt on plans for the unprecedented meeting.

White House aides are preparing to travel to Singapore this weekend for a crucial meeting with North Korean officials to discuss the agenda and logistics for the summit, US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Visiting Washington, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that if the United States seeks peace with North Korea and wants to make history, “now is the time” for the two countries’ leaders to hold their first-ever summit.

The US delegation, which includes White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Hagin and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, was being dispatched after Trump said on Tuesday there was a “substantial chance” the summit would be called off amid concerns Pyongyang is not prepared to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Asked on Wednesday whether the summit would go ahead, Trump told reporters: “It could very well happen. Whatever it is, we’ll know next week about Singapore. And if we go, I think it will be a great thing for North Korea.”

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But he added: “We’ll see.”

Trump did not say, however, whether the preparatory talks between US and North Korean officials in coming days were expected to clarify the situation. 

Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States is prepared to walk away from nuclear negotiations with North Korea if the summit heads in the wrong direction.

Pompeo said he was “very hopeful” the summit would take place but said the decision was ultimately up to Kim, who the secretary of state has met twice in less than two months.

Trump raised doubts about the summit in talks on Tuesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who came to Washington to urge Trump not to let a rare opportunity with reclusive North Korea slip away.

It was unclear whether Trump was truly backing away from the summit or whether he was strategically coaxing North Korea to the table after decades of tension on the Korean peninsula and antagonism with Washington over its nuclear weapons program.

The White House was caught off guard when, in a dramatic change of tone, North Korea last week condemned the latest US-South Korean air combat drills, suspended North-South talks and threatened to scrap the summit if Pyongyang was pushed toward “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”

 

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