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US-North Korea Summit in Jeopardy? Kim Regime Threatens to Call the Whole Thing Off

05-15-2018
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President Trump faced questions Wednesday about whether his summit with North Korea would still take place after the communist regime threatened to call off the meeting.

"We haven't seen anything, we haven't heard anything, we'll see what happens," Trump said.

When asked if Kim was bluffing when he threatened to cancel the planned June 12th Singapore summit, he replied, "We'll see what happens."

Trump made the comments to reporters while meeting with the President of Uzbekistan in the Oval Office.

The regime in Pyongyang issued the surprise announcement via state media early Wednesday, blaming annual military drills between the US and South Korea that started on Monday.

"The United States must carefully contemplate the fate of the planned North Korea-US summit amid the provocative military ruckus that it's causing with South Korean authorities," the North stated. "We'll keenly monitor how the United States and South Korean authorities will react."

The two-week drills are an annual event and have long been a source of contention between the two Koreas. However, in March, South Korea reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told visiting South Korean officials that he "understands" that this year's drill would take place. He also expressed hope that the two countries would modify the drills as conflict on the peninsula eases.

The State Department says the US is continuing plans for the North Korea summit and will go forward with the drills.  

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert addressed the North Korea situation saying, "We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting those exercises."

An Abrupt Change

North Korea's threat to cancel the summit is an abrupt change from its conciliatory behavior in recent weeks and months.

On Tuesday, South Korea's military reported that North Korea was moving forward with plans to close its nuclear test site next week.
   
And just last week, North Korea released three American prisoners. President Trump welcomed the three home and praised Kim Jong Un.

"We want to thank Kim Jong Un who really was excellent to these three incredible people," he said. "I really think he wants to do something and bring their country into the real world."

Why the Threat?

Observers are still trying to understand why North Korea may have pivoted after so much outreach to the US. The North is not only threatening the US summit, it also canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea.

North Korea says the US is making a "one-sided demand" to force it to give up its nuclear weapons.

Some analysts believe that Kim is playing to a domestic audience, trying to convince his people that he will stand up to Washington.  

Others note that North Korea has a long history of both provoking other countries and scrapping deals at the 11th hour. They believe the North may simply be trying to bolster its position and win concessions ahead of Kim's big summit with President Trump in Singapore.

China is now pushing against the North, urging it to go forward with the summit. The foreign ministry says the two countries should make sure the meeting runs as planned and that it yields "substantial outcomes."

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