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North Korea 'Playing Hardball' with Trump, Trying to Extort More Concessions Ahead of Summit


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Mathew Ha, with the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, joins CBN's Senior International Correspondent George Thomas to discuss implications of North Korea's recent political moves.

To many observers, North Korea's threat to cancel the upcoming historic summit between Kim Jong Un and president Donald Trump is another reminder of how untrustworthy the communist regime is.

"Look, this is something that we fully expected," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday. "The president is very used to and ready for tough negotiations and if they want to meet, we'll be ready and if they don't, that's OK too."

On Wednesday, the regime released a statement complaining about a host of issues and bashed the Trump administration for making "reckless" statements against North Korea.

"We have already stated our intention of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States," Kim Kye Gwan, the first vice-minister of North Korea, said in a statement Wednesday.

"The most hopeful interpretation is that this is just negotiating posturing," said Michael Szanto, an international policy expert. "The North Korean government is hoping that they can gain leverage against the United States."

Experts say it is too soon to tell whether North Korea has returned to old habits of diplomatic brinkmanship or if these threats are merely posturing ahead of the planned summit.

"This is mainly about looking for additional concessions before the summit even happens," Mathew Ha, research associate with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told CBN News. "This is their way of sort of playing hardball with the United States."

North Korea is notorious for deploying brinkmanship tactics with former US administrations.

"The North Koreans have consistently used diplomacy, as Kim Jung Un has learned from his father, that this is a great way to extort concessions from the United States and its allies," Ha said.

"This is a guy who cannot be trusted, this is literally a little boy who is running this country," said CBN News National Security Correspondent Erik Rosales about Kim. Rosales shared his insights about North Korea and explains the China connection on a recent edition of the CBN News Daily Rundown.

"We are not going to make concessions just to get to the negotiating table," warned Texas Congressman Michael McCaul.

McCaul, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, says the Trump administration will not make the same mistakes as previous administrations.

"I think that has been the fatal flaw that has happened over the past three administrations where the North Koreans have played us and continued their nuclear weapons program," McCaul said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says whatever concessions the North is looking for, some issues are non-negotiable for the United States, the primary one being that Pyongyang agrees to complete denuclearization.

"The president has a commitment and he will make this commitment to Chairman Kim," Pompeo said. "If you do the things we need to do so that America is no longer held at risk by your nuclear weapons arsenal, and that you get rid of your CBW {chemical, biological weapons} program and missiles that threaten the world, we will ensure that your people have the opportunity for the greatness that I know Chairman Kim wants them to have."

Trump's national security advisor, John Bolton, echoed Pompeo's sentiments.

"We are going to do everything we can to come to a successful meeting, but we are not going to back away from the objective of that meeting, which is complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea," Bolton said in an interview with Fox News Radio.

North Korea says it has no interest in a "one-sided" meeting meant to pressure it into abandoning its nuclear weapons.

"If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue," Kim Kye Gwan said in Wednesday's statement.

"If President Trump follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, he will be recorded as more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors, far from his initial ambition to make unprecedented success," Kim added.

The regime's media repeated its opposition on Thursday to previously scheduled military drills between South Korea and the United States.

"We'll make continued efforts to maintain and improve the current political situation," said an unidentified writer on a North Korean government website. "But indiscriminate drills for invasion of the North will never be tolerated."

President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un are scheduled to meet June 12 in Singapore.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday, "if the North Koreans want to meet, we'll be there."

"The president is fully prepared to have the meeting, but if not that's OK too and we'll see what happens beyond that," Sanders said during her daily briefing at the White House.

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About The Author

George Thomas Headshot

Born in Dar es salaam, Tanzania, and of Indian descent, CBN News’ senior international correspondent and co-anchor, George Thomas, has been traveling the globe for more than 20 years finding the stories of people, conflicts and issues that must be told. He has reported from more than 100 countries, and has had a front row seat to numerous global events of our day. His stories of faith, struggle and hope combine the expertise of a seasoned journalist with inspiration of a deep calling to tell the stories of the people behind the news. “I’ve always liked discovering & exploring new places,” says