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U.S.: If no meeting, maximum pressure on N. Korea to continue

Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged on Wednesday it was unclear if his summit with North Korea would go ahead after Pyongyang threatened to pull out of the unprecedented meeting, a move that could deny him a potentially major foreign policy achievement.

North Korea threw into doubt the June 12 summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and Trump on Wednesday, saying it might not attend if Washington continues to demand it unilaterally abandon its nuclear arsenal. North Korea also called off talks with South Korea scheduled for Wednesday, blaming U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

“We’ll have to see,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if the summit was still on, though he insisted he would not back down from his demand for North Korea’s denuclearization.

“No decision, we haven’t been notified at all ... We haven’t seen anything, we haven’t heard anything,” he said.

Trump’s aides — who, according to one U.S. official, were caught off guard by North Korea’s warning — were working on Wednesday to determine whether it was a negotiating ploy by Pyongyang or an attempt to scuttle the summit.

The White House said it was still hopeful the summit would take place, but Trump was prepared for a tough negotiation.

“The president is ready if the meeting takes place,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News. “If it doesn’t, we’ll continue the maximum pressure campaign that’s been ongoing.”

Sanders said the North Korean comments were “not something that is out of the ordinary in these types of operations.” Pyongyang has a long history of threatening to walk away from negotiations if it does not get its way.

North Korea’s first vice minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye Gwan, cast doubt on whether the summit, which is set for Singapore, would be held.

He specifically criticized U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, who has called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that would mirror Libya’s abandonment of its program for weapons of mass destruction.

“If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the ... summit,” he said.

Seoul to play ‘mediator’

SEOUL (Reuters) — South Korea is seeking to mediate to bridge the gap between the United States and North Korea as they appear to have “some kind of difference in stances” ahead of a planned summit, an official at South Korea’s presidential Blue House said on Thursday.Speech

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