US President Donald Trump offered North Korea’s Kim Jong-un guarantees of staying in power if he abandons nuclear weapons, but warned he could end up like Libya’s former leader if he doesn’t.
In an effort to put his planned landmark summit with Kim back on track, Trump said on Thursday that North Korea “will get protections that will be very strong” if the meeting were to go ahead successfully.
“He’d be in his country and running his country. His country would be very rich,” he told reporters.
But the pledge came barbed with a warning that if talks fail, Kim could suffer the same fate as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who was overthrown by rebels and gruesomely killed.
The fate suffered by Libya shows “what will take place if we don’t make a deal”, the US president warned.
Trump’s remarks came as Pyongyang threatened to cancel the historic summit, set for June 12 in Singapore, after blaming US demands for “unilateral nuclear abandonment”.
A North Korean official also derided as “absurd” comments by Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who referred to Libya as a model for denuclearisation.
The model Bolton was referring to was a 2003 deal in which Gaddafi agreed to the elimination of his country’s nuclear programme and chemical weapons arsenal to gain sanctions relief.
Trump said he was not pursuing the so-called “Libya model” in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
He appeared to interpret the “Libya model” to mean the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, which led to Gaddafi’s death.
“The Libya model was a much different model. We decimated that country,” Trump said. “There was no deal to keep Gaddafi.”
However, he added the Libya model would only come into play if a deal could not be reached with North Korea. He didn’t elaborate.
The US leader also suggested Kim’s about-face on the meeting may have been at the behest of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“It could very well be that he’s influencing Kim Jong-un,” Trump said, citing a recent meeting between the pair, their second in a month’s time. “We’ll see what happens.”
He went on to say nothing has changed with respect to North Korea after the warning from Pyongyang.
Trump said North Korean officials are discussing logistical details about the meeting with the US “as if nothing happened”.
“I can only say our people are literally dealing with them right now in terms of making arrangements for the meeting,” he said.
In addition to threatening to pull out of the summit with Trump, the North abruptly canceled a planned meeting with South Korean officials citing joint US-South Korean military exercises.
The Pentagon said Thursday the schedule of military manouevres hasn’t changed.
The North has argued it needs its nuclear weapons to preserve its security with 28,500 American troops stationed in the South.
In previous talks, Pyongyang said it would consider giving up its arsenal if the US removed its forces from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from the region.