NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the denuclearization of North Korea would not follow the path of Libya, which resulted in the downfall of its leader Moammar Gadhafi. Trump said instead that a deal with the U.S. would allow North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to stay in power and that the country would be rich.
"The Libyan model isn't a model we have at all when thinking of North Korea," the president told reporters ahead of his meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office. "In Libya we decimated that country. There was no deal to keep Gadhafi."
"We never said to Gadhafi 'we will give you protection, we will give you military strength,'" Trump said, hinting that those are the terms of the deal he is currently negotiating.
Trump said that if Kim were to accept a deal it would rather be a "South Korean" model. "He'd be running his country. His country will be very rich, his people are industrious."
Trump's comments were a response to the angry statements out of Pyongyang criticizing Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton for saying that North Korea's denuclearization would follow the path of the Libya model, in which Gadhafi promised to abandon his nuclear program in exchange for economic integration with the West. Gadhafi was killed eight years later during the civil war by Libyan militia.
"The world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fates," the North's Korean Central News Agency quoted First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Gwan as saying on Wednesday. "It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapons state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development," he said.
Bolton said in late April "we're looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004."
In a warning to Pyongyang, Trump warned that "the Libyan model will take place if we don't make a deal," but quickly added that he thought that Kim would be "very very happy" with an agreement they are planning.
The president also said that he thought North Korea's sudden shift in stance could have been related to Kim's recent visit to Dalian, China.
"Things changed a little bit when he met with China a second time," Trump said, noting that the visit was a surprise. "It could be that President Xi [Jinping] is influencing Kim Jong Un," he said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Thursday that there are no changes to the scheduled meeting between Trump and Kim on June 12 in Singapore.
"The president is prepared and would be ready to meet," Sanders said at a daily press briefing. "We are continuing to move forward with the preparation at this point and if the North Koreans want to meet, we will be there."
Meanwhile, North Korea's chief negotiator, Ri Son Gwon, on Thursday called the South Korean government "ignorant and incompetent," and said that Pyongyang will not sit down with Seoul again unless the situation is "settled."
Ri took issue with South Korea's comments that expressed "regret" that the high-level talks between the two Koreas scheduled for Wednesday were canceled. South Korea is "trying to shift the responsibility for the rupture of the north-south high-level talks on to the DPRK," he said, referring to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korea is criticizing the involvement of B-52 strategic nuclear bombers and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters in the Max Thunder air combat drills that the U.S. and South Korea are jointly holding from May 11 through 25.
"Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face to face again with the present regime of south Korea," he said, according to the English-language service of the North's Korean Central News Agency. KCNA deliberately uses lower-case "north" and "south" to show that it only recognizes one undivided Korea.