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Trump: 'Substantial chance' summit with Kim will not go ahead

US-North Korea summit under threat unless Pyongyang meets 'certain conditions', Trump says.


US President Donald Trump has done little to quell mounting uncertainty surrounding a hallmark meeting with North Korea's leader planned for next month, as he held key talks with his South Korean counterpart at the White House.

Trump is scheduled to meet Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12, but in recent weeks concerns have been raised over whether the summit will take place amid disagreements over denuclearisation in the Korean peninsula.

"If it doesn't happen, maybe it will happen later," Trump said of the meeting, addressing reporters alongside Moon Jae-in.

Asked to offer more details, the US president, who earlier this month withdrew from a multinational nuclear deal with Iran, muddied waters even further.

"There's a chance that it will work out," he said. "There's a chance, there’s a very substantial chance it won't work out," added Trump.

"There are certain conditions that we want, and I think we'll get those conditions.  And if we don't, we don't have the meeting."

'A lot of uncertainty'

Moon's visit to the US, had been seen as an opportunity to help fine-tune Trump's strategy for talks with Kim in June, but a dramatic about-turn by Pyongyang last week has added to the sense of doubt over whether the summit will actually take place.

After weeks of seemingly warming relations on the Korean peninsula, marked by a historic inter-Korea summit last month, Pyongyang suspended talks with its southern counterpart last week due to its hosting of a joint military drill with the US.

North Korea has also threatened to pull out of the Singapore summit if the US continues to demand it gives up its nuclear arsenal unilaterally.

Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea's first vice minister of foreign affairs, said in a statement last week that Pyongyang would "no longer be interested" in dialogue if the US "is trying to drive us into a corner".

North Korea started dismantling its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, at which six nuclear tests have been carried out since 2006, last week.

In particular, Pyongyang is concerned about a continued US military presence on the Korean peninsula and Washington's so-called nuclear deterrence umbrella in South Korea and Japan.

More than 24,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea, according to Department of Defense figures from 2016.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said Trump didn't "want to look like he wants this summit more than Kim does".

"It’s a smart move to say that he is willing to postpone. But to be credible, the president really has to be willing to walk away and I’m not sure he is," Glaser told Reuters news agency.

Pyongyang tracks back

For his part, Moon said the "fate and future" of the peninsula is hinged on the potentially historic planned meeting.

South Korea has offered to mediate between the US and North Korea to ensure the summit, which would mark the first meeting between a sitting US president and North Korean leader, goes ahead.

Referring to those who have raised doubts about the meet, Moon said that all parties must not assume that because similar efforts had "failed in the past, [they] will fail again".

Later on Tuesday, Moon's spokesperson Yoon Young-chan said inter-Korean talks originally scheduled for May 16, but cancelled by Pyongyang a day before, would likely resume after June 25, following completion of the joint US-South Korea military drills. 

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