A senior North Korean official published a statement in the nation’s government news service on Wednesday expressing “repugnance” at National Security Advisor John Bolton and rejecting the possibility of a Libya-style denuclearization program.
First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan’s scathing condemnation of the United States surfaces shortly after the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced that Pyongyang would not longer attend talks with South Korea scheduled for Wednesday in protest of a joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise that occurs annually. KCNA warned that North Korea would walk out of denuclearlization talks with the United States if American officials continued to insist on a complete shutdown of the North Korean nuclear program and improvement in the country’s dismal human rights situation.
Kim Kye-gwan’s remarks, reproduced in full by Quartz (KCNA’s website is not accessible in the United States), represent an escalation in rhetoric against America.
Kim Kye-gwan begins his statement by praising President Trump for saying that he hopes to end “the historically deep-rooted hostility” between their two countries, but turns sharply towards condemning Bolton.
“But now prior to the DPRK-U.S. summit, unbridled remarks provoking the other side of dialogue are recklessly made in the U.S. and I am totally disappointed as these constitute extremely unjust behavior,” Kim Kye-gwan laments:
High-ranking officials of the White House and the Department of State including Bolton, White House national security adviser, are letting loose the assertions of so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment, “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization”, “total decommissioning of nuclear weapons, missiles, biochemical weapons”. etc, while talking about formula of “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards.”
Kim Kye-gwan calls Bolton’s comments “sinister” and dismisses Libya and Iraq, which did not engage in a similar nuclear disarmament program, as “collapsed” states that North Korea does not seek to emulate.
“I cannot suppress indignation at such moves of the U.S., and harbor doubt about the U.S. sincerity for improved DPRK-U.S. relations through sound dialogue and negotiations,” Kim Kye-gwan writes. “It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development.”
“We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him,” he concludes, adding that “it is a ridiculous comedy to see that the Trump administration, claiming to take a different road from the previous administrations, still clings to the outdated policy on the DPRK.” DPRK is the abbreviation for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.
Kim Kye-gwan’s grievances in the KCNA piece are different from those that KCNA detailed in a statement late Tuesday announcing that North Korean officials would no longer attend high-level talks with the South scheduled for Wednesday. In that statement, Pyongyang objected to the scheduled occurrence of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises known as “Max Thunder,” which typically occur as part of the larger annual “Foal Eagle” exercises at the beginning of the year but were postponed until May following the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
In that statement, Korean media said the Max Thunder exercises call “into question whether next month’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump can go ahead as planned.”
Trump and Kim Jong-un are scheduled to meet on June 12 in Singapore, a neutral host country.
Two months after Kim Jong-un reportedly told a South Korean delegation that full denuclearization was father Kim Jong-il’s “dying wish,” North Korea objected to Bolton stating that he wishes to see a plan implemented to ensure the full denuclearization of North Korea.
“We want to see the denuclearization process so completely underway that it is irreversible,” Bolton said in an interview on ABC this weekend. “The implementation of the decision means getting rid of all the nuclear weapons, dismantling them, taking them to Oak Ridge, Tennessee.” Bolton was clear that he wished to see the United States manage the full dismantlement of the nuclear program, not a global entity like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Oak Ridge location also became home to the remnants of the Libyan nuclear program, prompting the ire of North Korea.
The major disagreement on the definition of denuclearization appears to be between Bolton’s suggestion—complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)—and something lesser that may allow for North Korea to restart its illegal nuclear weapons program at any time. Thae Yong-ho, a former senior diplomat for North Korea who defected to the South, said this week that, in his estimation, North Korea will seek only “sufficient” dismantling of the program.
“The final destination that the North is headed for is not to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program but become a nuclear weapons state covered by the paper called denuclearization,” Thae warned, citing his many years working to promote the North Korean government agenda in London.