A North Korean official has lashed out at Vice President Mike Pence and said Pyongyang is ready for a nuclear showdown if dialogue with the United States fails.
Choe Son Hui, a vice-minister in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, said if the U.S. continued on its current path, she would suggest to North Korea’s leadership that they reconsider the planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States," Choe said in comments carried by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency Thursday.
Choe was responding to comments by Pence made during a Fox News interview that she deemed "unbridled and impudent."
Pence was asked about recent remarks by U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who said the U.S. would look to the negotiations with Libya during the early 2000s when dealing with North Korea.
"There was some talk about the Libya model," Pence told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum. "As the president made clear, this will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal."
When MacCallum said that some people may have seen Bolton’s comments as a threat, Pence said "I think it’s more of a fact."
North Korea has long cited Libya’s case as the reason it needs nuclear weapons. Less than a decade after Moammar Gadhafi agreed to abandon its nuclear aspirations in a deal with the United States, he was ousted from power and killed with the help of NATO-backed forces.
Choe called Pence a "political dummy" for comparing Libya to North Korea. She said that Libya’s nuclear program was in its early stages when it came to the negotiating table, while North Korea has spent years developing its nuclear weapons.
Analysts believe that Choe, a diplomat who focuses on the U.S.-North Korea relationship, is a rising star in North Korea’s Foreign Ministry. She was reportedly promoted to vice minister earlier this year.
"As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president," she said.
Trump and Kim are set to meet in Singapore on June 12 for the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader, but the North Koreans have expressed displeasure over recent comments by the United States and joint military exercises between Washington and Seoul.
Trump said Tuesday that the meeting could be delayed, but both sides appear to be moving ahead with the planning process
Top White House officials are expected to travel to Singapore this weekend to work with the North Koreans on logistical and agenda items.
Speaking alongside his Chinese and Japanese counterparts in Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters he’s hopeful about the prospects.
"I hope that we can have this opportunity, this historic opportunity to do something that would truly transform this global challenge that’s been threatening the world for an awfully long time," he said.
But a senior administration official involved in the planning process told CNN that Trump’s team wants more high-level talks with Pyongyang before the summit.