The United States is still hopeful about a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but President Donald Trump is prepared for a tough negotiation process, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says.
North Korea threw the summit between Kim and Trump - scheduled for June 12 in Singapore - into doubt yesterday, threatening weeks of diplomatic progress by saying it may reconsider if Washington insists that it unilaterally gives up its nuclear weapons.
"We're still hopeful that the meeting will take place and we'll continue down that path but at the same time we've been prepared that these could be tough negotiations," she said.
"The president is ready if the meeting takes place. If it doesn't, we'll continue the maximum pressure campaign that's been ongoing."
Sanders said the comments from North Korea were "not something that is out of the ordinary in these types of operations."
She added: "The president's fully prepared and fully ready to carry on in these conversations both leading up to and if the meeting takes place. He'll be there and he'll be ready."
According to North Korea's official KCNA news agency, Pyongyang's first vice minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye Gwan, specifically criticized US national security adviser John Bolton, who has called for the North to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that mirrors Libya's abandonment of
its weapons of mass destruction.
"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," Kim Kye Gwan said.
Sanders played down those concerns. "I haven't seen that as part of any discussions so I'm not aware that that's a model that we're using," she said.
North Korea 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 Kye Gwan said.