Trump has said he is not pursuing the "Libya model" in getting the North to denuclearize. His national security adviser's suggestion of such a policy prompted Pyongyang to threaten to cancel a June meeting with Trump.
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday said North Korea would get "very strong" protections if it were to give up its nuclear weapons.
He said the deal he was looking at would protect North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "He would be there, he would be running his country, his country would be very rich," Trump said.
Trump said he was not pursuing the Libya model in getting North Korea to denuclearize, distancing himself from comments from his national security adviser, John Bolton.
Bolton's comments about how North Korea should follow the example set in talks with Libya over nuclear disarmament threw doubt on a June 12 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. North Korea has said it may skip the meeting if the US continues to demand that it unilaterally abandon its nuclear weapons.
"The Libya model was a much different model. We decimated that country," Trump said.
He said the Libya model would only come into play if a deal cannot be reached with North Korea.
"We cannot let that country have nukes. We just can't do it," he said.
Trump reiterated that as far as he knew the meeting with Kim was still on track. He said North Korean officials are discussing logistical details about the meeting "as if nothing happened."
'Incompetent' South Korea
Earlier Thursday, North Korea threatened it would not return to talks with South Korea until Seoul meets all its demands. It criticized its southern rival over the ongoing US-South Korean military exercises, calling the government in Seoul "ignorant and incompetent."
"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," the North's official Korean Central News Agency quoted Ri Son Gwon, chairman of a North Korean agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs, as saying.
The comments came a day after North Korea canceled a high-level meeting with the South because of the drills.
Ri also criticized the South for allowing "human scum" to speak at its National Assembly.
Ri was apparently referring to a news conference held by Thae Yong Ho, a former senior North Korean diplomat to Britain who defected to the South in 2016. Thae had expressed his skepticism over the North Korean leader ever fully relinquishing his nukes or agreeing to a robust verification regime.
Just hours earlier, South Korea said it was pushing to reset the high-level talks with its northern neighbor. Seoul also said it was planning to communicate closely with the US and North Korea to ensure the success of the Trump-Kim summit.
'Max Thunder' military drills
The United States said it was not planning to reduce the scope of the ongoing military exercises with South Korea.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said the schedule of military exercises hasn't changed.
"There's been no talk of reducing anything. There's been no talk of changing our scope," White said.
The exercises "are defensive in nature and the scope hasn't changed ... This is about safeguarding the alliance," she added.
Exercise Max Thunder began on Monday and concludes on May 25.
ap/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)