North Korea has thrown next month's summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump into doubt, threatening weeks of diplomatic progress by saying it may reconsider if Washington insists on pursuing a one-sided denuclearisation deal.
The North's official KCNA news agency said on Wednesday that Pyongyang had called off high-level talks with Seoul on Wednesday in the first sign of trouble in what had been warming ties.
Citing first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan, KCNA later said the fate of the US-North Korea summit, as well as bilateral relations, "would be clear" if Washington spoke of a "Libya-style" denuclearisation for the North.
"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 and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-US summit," Kim Kye Gwan said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Kim specifically criticised US national security adviser John Bolton, who has called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that mirrors Libya's abandonment of its weapons of mass destruction.
North Korea previously clashed with Bolton when he worked under the Bush administration, calling him "human scum" and a "bloodsucker".
"We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him," Kim said.
The statements, combined with joint military drills by South Korean and US warplanes, mark a dramatic reversal in tone from recent months when both sides embraced efforts to negotiate.
North Korea had announced it would publicly shut its nuclear test site next week. Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet in Singapore on June 12.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the US would agree to lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
However, Kim Kye Gwan's statement appeared to reject such an arrangement, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear program in exchange for economic trade with the US.
"We have already stated our intention for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearisation is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States," Kim said.
Any cancellation of the June 12 summit in Singapore, the first meeting between a serving US president and a North Korean leader, would deal a major blow to what would be the biggest diplomatic achievement of Trump's presidency.
China said on Wednesday all parties should demonstrate goodwill and sincerity to create a conducive atmosphere for denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.
KCNA said North Korea was suspending Wednesday's ministerial-level meeting, which was to focus on plans to implement the inter-Korea summit declaration, including promises to formally end the Korean War and pursue "complete denuclearisation".
South Korea described the North's decision as "regrettable".
© PAA 2018