SEOUL, South Korea — After presenting himself as a statesman, and changing his role from tyrant to moderate on the world stage, Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, has revealed his bottom line: He will not give up his nuclear weapons as President Trump has demanded.
In warning on Wednesday that Mr. Kim could withdraw from his planned June 12 summit meeting with Mr. Trump in Singapore, Pyongyang demanded that Washington remove military threats against North Korea, and it suspended talks with South Korea over its joint military exercises with the United States. The abrupt change from the North, which for months had been calling for dialogue, threatened to dash hopes for a breakthrough in the tensions that pushed the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war last year.
Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said North Korea had begun to fear looking weak by making unilateral concessions, like its moratorium on missile tests and its decision to shut down its nuclear test site. He noted that the United States, rather than offering concessions of its own, has vowed only to keep up its maximum pressure on the North if it fails to quickly denuclearize.
“The last thing Kim Jong-un can afford is to look like he is surrendering his nuclear weapons,” Mr. Koh said.