Wildly conflicting messages from North Korea give Trump second thoughts about summit

Sergio Conner
May 23, 2018

A group of roughly two dozen journalists from Western and Chinese news organisations departed for North Korea on Tuesday to witness the closure of its nuclear test site. Trump said if such an agreement is reached, China, Japan and South Korea would invest large sums to "make North Korea great".

The North also initially invited eight South Korean journalists from two media outlets, a broadcaster and a news wire, to cover the dismantling ceremony.

The highly publicized dismantling of the plant, and the invites to foreign journalists to witness it, comes as North Korea lashes out at the USA and South Korea over long-scheduled joint military exercises, and at the US for taking credit for the diplomatic breakthrough.

The DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this month announced Pyongyang would host worldwide journalists for the dismantling of its northern nuclear test ground, slated to take place sometime between Wednesday and Friday depending on the weather conditions.

"Nonetheless, we note that the dismantlement of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, a measure toward denuclearization that has been promised by the North, is proceeding as planned", said Cho, "and we look forward to the North-U.S. summit to be held successfully through North Korea's action".

North Korea's state-run Minju Joson newspaper issued a fresh attack on the US and South Korea in a commentary Tuesday, again pointing to the ongoing Max Thunder air exercises. This would mean the removal of the United States "nuclear umbrella" over South Korea, not just the unilateral disarmament of North Korea.

Moon will meet with Donald Trump Tuesday, ahead of the USA president's planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore next month.

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The South Korean journalists were expected to participate in the trip, but were left behind in Beijing after the North refused to grant them visas. -North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12.

"Specialists must be dispatched to the site to collect samples from past tests and analyze them to determine explosive power and materials used", Albright told the Mainichi Shimbun. Trump suggested last week that Beijing, which Washington is at odds with over trade, may be influencing North Korea's hardened stance.

There has been no indication that North Korea will cancel plans to dismantle the test site, an important gesture of goodwill. But, on the whole, polls do suggest a cautious optimism will remain among South Koreans.

But with North Korea improving its ties with China following the announcement of the Trump-Kim summit, it's possible that Kim could now back out of the summit and attempt to paint Trump as the belligerent one. He recently withdrew the US from the global Iran-nuclear deal - without outlining a path forward with his allies.

The White House last week was forced to downplay comments by Trump's national security adviser John Bolton that North Korea could follow the "Libya model" in denuclearizing, after they received an angry response from Pyongyang.

The Russian expert speculated as to what turn the situation could take if Trump and Kim Jong-un finally met. "Trump would state that he did what other presidents were unable to do, particularly clinching an agreement that would ensure that North Korean missiles didn't pose a threat to American cities anymore and Pyongyang started abandoning its weapons, though that might not be the whole truth", Toloraya said.

Trump has sought to placate Kim by holding out the possibility of economic development, and he pledged on Thursday that Kim's security would be guaranteed in any deal. All the tunnels will be blown up and the surrounding area will be completely closed, according to North Korean media.

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