A senior North Korean diplomat renewed a threat late Wednesday to cancel a planned summit with President Trump, lashing out at Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” and warning that the failure of negotiations could lead to a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”
Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs, said in one of her government’s harshest statements yet that Pyongyang could “make the U.S. taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined.”
Her statement, issued through North Korean state media, came just a day after Mr. Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House to prepare for the increasingly unlikely summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore.
In an interview Wednesday before Ms. Choe’s comments, Mr. Trump said U.S. and North Korean officials were still in contact about the planned summit.
“Right now we’re looking at it, we’re talking about it, and they’re talking to us,” Mr. Trump told Fox News. “We have certain conditions. We’ll see what happens. But there’s a good chance.”
But Ms. Choe’s statement raised fresh doubts about the prospects of the summit taking place. She cited an interview that Mr. Pence gave to Fox News this week in which he suggested that North Korea asked for the summit.
“It is the U.S. who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us,” Ms. Choe said. “We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us.”
Jean Lee, a Korea specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said Ms. Choe’s comments illustrate that North Korea is “emboldened by its nuclear arsenal.”
“The North Koreans are making it clear they will only come to the summit if treated as an equal and as a nuclear power — not as the poor, desperate country President Donald Trump portrayed in his comments with President Moon Jae-in at the White House on Tuesday,” she said. “This is North Korea saying: ‘Don’t try to bully us. That won’t get us to the table.’”
Ms. Choe also lashed out at Mr. Pence for discussing Libya in the context of North Korea’s possible denuclearization. Another North Korean official earlier complained about White House national security adviser John Bolton making the same comparison.
Moammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in 2011, eight years after the U.S. compelled him to give up Libya’s nuclear weapons. Mr. Trump made a promise Tuesday that Mr. Kim would be “safe” if he gave up his nuclear arsenal.
Ms. Choe called Mr. Pence’s comments “unbridled and impudent,” adding that “Pence should have seriously considered the terrible consequences of his words.”
“As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” she said.
She said if the U.S. continues to offend North Korea’s “good will,” she would advise Mr. Kim to consider canceling the summit with Mr. Trump.
The president said this week after meeting with Mr. Moon that there was a “significant” chance that the summit wouldn’t take place on June 12, but he hoped it would take place eventually. U.S. officials said they were still proceeding as if the meeting will take place as scheduled.