Washington is “still hopeful” about a planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on Wednesday.
“We’re still hopeful that the meeting will take place and we’ll continue down that path, but at the same time, we’ve been prepared that these could be tough negotiations,” Sanders said in an interview with Fox News.
“The president is ready if the meeting takes place. If it doesn’t, we’ll continue the maximum pressure campaign that’s been ongoing,” she added.
Sanders said the rogue regime’s rhetoric was “not something that is out of the ordinary in these types of operations.” “The president’s fully prepared and fully ready to carry on in these conversations both leading up to and if the meeting takes place,” she said. “He’ll be there and he’ll be ready.”
Sanders also told reporters at the White House that the North’s threat was “something that we fully expected.” “If they want to meet we’ll be ready and if they don’t, that’s OK too,” she added.
Sanders’ comments came a day after Pyongyang threw a monkey wrench into the historic summit planned for June 12 in Singapore by threatening to pull out amid military drills between the U.S. and South Korea.
Kim has already called off high-level talks with Seoul that had been planned for Wednesday, according to the North’s official KCNA news agency.
Pyongyang also upped the ante by warning that it would back out of the summit if the U.S. insists on denuclearization in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.
“We will not be interested in talks anymore if (they) only try to push us unilaterally into a corner and force us to give up nukes,” Vice Foreign Minister, Kim Kye-gwan, said in a statement carried by the state media.
The vice minister specifically targeted hard-line U.S. National Security Adviser, John Bolton, who has called on the hermit kingdom to relinquish its nuclear arsenal in a deal that closely resembles Libya’s abandonment of its weapons of mass destruction.
Pyongyang called Bolton “human scum” and a “bloodsucker” when he worked for the Bush administration. “We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him,” the North Korean diplomat said.
Pyongyang had already announced it would shut its nuclear test site next week – and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would agree to lift sanctions if the North agrees to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.