North Korea might not go through with a planned summit with Donald Trump after all, an official has warned, if it is pushed to abandon its nuclear programme.
The country, which previously agreed to discuss denuclearisation at the talks, has no interest in “one-sided demands” for North Korea to give up its weapons, a statement carried by state media said.
If America “corners us and unilaterally demands we give up nuclear weapons we will no longer have an interest in talks and will have to reconsider whether we will accept the upcoming DPRK-US summit”, state media quoted vice-foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan saying.
The statement specifically repudiated calls for a “complete, verifiable and irreversible“ end to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme, invoking the language the White House and Seoul have used to describe their goal.
It also assailed by name John Bolton, Mr Trump's hawkish new national security adviser who has advocated a preemptive military strike on North Korea.
With the expected summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Mr Trump looming, Pyongyang has pivoted from what had been a more conciliatory stance by laying out more concrete demands and pushing back against the US.
A day earlier, North Korea announced it would cancel a planned meeting with South Korea in response to its neighbour holding joint military exercises with American troops.
While Pyongyang has long condemned such exercises as rehearsals for an invasion, the regime had appeared to soften that stance earlier this year by conveying that it would not demand the exit of US troops from the Korean Peninsula as a precondition for a nuclear deal.
The latest statement from North Korea similarly signalled a return to more hardline tactics after Mr Kim had committed to seeking “denuclearisation” and moved to shut down a nuclear testing site.
Even as it has tentatively embraced the diplomatic opening posed by talks with Mr Kim, the Trump administration has hewn to a “maximum pressure” campaign of stringent sanctions, and Mr Trump has said he would walk away from a deal that falls short of disarmament.
Before inviting Mr Trump to an unprecedented meeting with Mr Kim, Pyongyang spent the first part of the Trump presidency rattling the world with a series of ballistic missile tests.
Both sides traded insults and threats of annihilation, fuelling fears of a nuclear conflict.