North Korea Threatens Again To Call Off Trump Summit, Warns Of ‘Nuclear Showdown’

A top Pyongyang official lambasted “political dummy” Mike Pence and cautioned the U.S. against making “ignorant” remarks.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured on April 9, 2018.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured on April 9, 2018.

North Korea has escalated its war of words with the U.S., repeating a threat on Thursday to call off the planned June 12 summit with President Donald Trump and warning that a “nuclear showdown” could instead be on the table.

In a statement published by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, the North’s vice minister of foreign affairs, Choe Son Hui, blamed “reckless” remarks made by top U.S. officials as the reason behind Pyongyang’s second thoughts.

Choe took aim at Vice President Mike Pence in particular, calling him a “political dummy” who’d offended North Korea with his “unbridled and impudent” comments. Pence had warned in a Fox News interview on Monday that Pyongyang could follow the “Libya model” if leader Kim Jong Un “doesn’t make a deal” ― a reference to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who met a brutal end following his decision to denuclearize after negotiations with the U.S.

North Korea has long expressed distaste at comparisons with Libya. Pyongyang has said that its nuclear capabilities are far more advanced than Libya’s ever were ― and has stressed its expectation that it be treated as a nuclear state on equal footing with the U.S. and other nuclear powers.

Choe echoed this scorn in her statement Thursday, saying North Korea has no interest in meeting the same “tragic fate” as the northern African nation.

“I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” Choe said, referring to Pence’s Libya comments, according to a Wall Street Journal translation.

“In case the U.S. offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the [Kim-Trump] summit,” Choe added, saying that it was up to the U.S. to decide whether it wanted to negotiate in a “meeting room or encounter us [in a] nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”

Jonathan Cheng


KCNA: “We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us. 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…of the U.S.”

Still, North Korea on Thursday invited journalists to witness what appeared to be the demolition of its main nuclear test site. The Associated Press and South Korean media reported several explosions at the secluded Punggye-ri location.

This is the second time in about a week that North Korea has threatened to withdraw from the U.S. summit — deviating starkly from a monthslong trend of warming relations.

Last week, Pyongyang abruptly canceled talks with South Korea and cast doubt on the meeting with Trump after taking issue with recent joint military exercises undertaken by Seoul and Washington.

Kim Kye Gwan, another top North Korean official, said in a statement last Wednesday that Pyongyang would be forced to “reconsider” the Trump meeting if the U.S. insisted on “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”

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Criticism of the “Libya model” also came up in Kim’s statement, with the official criticizing White House national security adviser John Bolton for suggesting the U.S. would urge Pyongyang to rapidly dismantle its entire nuclear program as Libya did years ago.

“If the United States is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the North Korea-U.S. summit,” Kim said.

Trump suggested Tuesday that he’d be open to a phased dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear program ― a departure from his earlier demand for total and immediate denuclearization, reported The New York Times.

Also on Tuesday, Trump, who met with South Korean President Moon Jae In at the White House, said there was a “very substantial chance” that the summit with Kim Jong Un could be postponed.

“We’re moving along. We’ll see what happens. There are certain conditions we want to happen. I think we’ll get those conditions. And if we don’t, we won’t have the meeting,” Trump told reporters, without specifying what those “conditions” would be.

On Wednesday, Trump told Fox News there was a “good chance” that the summit would take place.

Breaking News


U.S. President Trump says of pending summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un that there is a chance it will work out, and a substantial chance it won’t work out, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work out over a period of time, adding that there’s a good chance meeting will be held.

North Korea experts said they still expect the summit to happen, though the journey to get there may be rocky.

“In effect, President Trump is getting a mini-lesson in talking to the North Koreans even before he talks to the North Koreans,” Jung Pak, a Brookings Institution fellow and former CIA analyst, told the Times this week.

Mintaro Oba, a former state department expert on the Koreas, suggested last week that Trump “keep calm and carry on,” and that the North’s threat to cancel is “par for the course.”

“The question is whether they’re willing to go so far as to go through with it, or whether they’re mainly trying to gain some leverage [or] test how much we want the summit,” he wrote on Twitter.

This has been updated to include reports of North Korea’s nuclear test site demolition.



North Korea Meets With South Korea

Trump cancels nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

By John Wagner, John Hudson and Anna Fifield
May 24 at 12:47 PM
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President Turmp and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
President Trump on Thursday canceled asummit next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” from the rogue nation in a letter explaining his abrupt decision.

“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote to Kim in a letter the White House released Thursday morning.

The summit — which had the potential to be a major diplomatic victory for Trump — had been planned for June 12 in Singapore.

Speaking later at the White House, Trump sounded a bellicose note, relaying that the U.S. military is “ready if necessary” to take action against North Korea if it engages in a “foolish or reckless act” and that South Korea and Japan are willing to shoulder the costs.

At the same time, Trump held open the possibility that he and Kim could meet at a later date to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which Trump has been pushing.

“While many things can happen and a great opportunity lies ahead potentially, I believe that this is a tremendous setback for North Korea and indeed a setback for the world,” Trump said, adding that the United States will continue to impose tough economic sanctions against the nation.

Senators react to canceled North Korea summit
Senators reacted on May 24 to President Trump’s decision to pull out of a June summit with North Korea. (JM Rieger, Jordan Frasier/The Washington Post)

After an emergency meeting at midnight with his top aides, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he was “very perplexed and sorry” that the summit had been canceled.

“The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and ensuring a permanent peace are historic tasks that cannot be delayed or forsaken,” he said, adding that he did not believe that the “sincerity” of Kim or Trump had changed.

“It is difficult to deal with these sensitive and difficult diplomatic problems with this current way of communicating,” Moon said, urging the two leaders to have direct dialogue.

[Read President Trump’s letter]

Trump’s decision came amid hostile warnings from North Korea in recent days that it was reconsidering its participation, including a statement that the United States must decide whether to “meet us in a meeting room or encounter us at [a] nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”

A close aide to Kim unleashed a torrent of invective against the Trump administration Thursday morning, calling Vice President Pence a “political dummy” for remarks he made Monday in a television interview that referred to the downfall of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

North Korea has bristled at Trump administration suggestions that it follow the “Libyan model” to abandon its nuclear efforts. Gaddafi was killed in 2011 in a Western-backed intervention after giving up his nuclear materials in 2003 and 2004 in what amounted to a relatively quick process.

“I was very much looking forward to being there with you,” Trump said in his letter to Kim. “The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth.”

U.S. and North Korean leaders have a long, sharp-tongued history VIEW GRAPHIC
White House aides had grown concerned because North Korea had not responded to summit planning requests and had canceled a logistics meeting, said a senior White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about the sensitive issue.

Many details needed to be settled within days for the summit to happen, this official said, adding that the White House did not want an embarrassing situation of “losing the upper hand.”

U.S. officials had begun signaling to other countries late last week that the summit could be postponed, and they appeared concerned that the meeting would not yield a clear result, said a foreign diplomat familiar with preparations.

Pompeo on North Korea summit: U.S. was ready
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said May 24 that North Korea had not responded to inquiries from U.S. summit preparation teams in recent days. (Reuters)

A former senior U.S. official familiar with aspects of the planning said the two sides had not yet agreed on a draft communique, the usually bland statement issued at the close of diplomatic summits. The statement is typically worked out far in advance, and the absence of that draft had been a red flag to diplomats over the past week, the official said.

Trump’s decision came less than 24 hours after Moon, the South Korean leader, returned from a meeting at the White House.

[Analysis: What South Korea’s Moon has but Trump does not: A sky-high approval rating]

Chun Yung-woo, a former South Korean nuclear negotiator with the North, said that it was better to have no summit than a disastrous summit.

“It is true that Trump overreacted to the petty game North Korea was playing to improve its hand,” Chun said. “But if North Korea is not serious about denuclearization as understood generally, it would have been dangerous to hold the summit as scheduled.”

The news of Trump’s decision broke late in the evening, Asian time, and Chinese officials did not immediately respond.

But in a tweet shortly after Trump’s announcement, Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor of the Global Times, a Communist Party-controlled paper known for its strident nationalism, criticized the move.

“The decision of US President Donald Trump was announced a few hours after North Korea dismantled its nuclear test site. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un must have felt that he was tricked by Trump,” he wrote. “Many people would think so too.”

Why does North Korea hate the U.S.? Look to the Korean War.
Why does North Korea hate the U.S.? Look to the Korean War. (Anna Fifield, Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

In canceling the meeting, Trump forfeits what had been a largely popular decision to meet with Kim. An April Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 56 percent of Americans supported the meeting in an attempt to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, even though two-thirds of adults said it was unlikely that the nation would actually do so.

The announcement immediately reverberated on Capitol Hill. At the outset of a budget hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo read Trump’s letter.

In reaction to the cancellation, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the panel, admonished the Trump administration for a “lack of deep preparation.”

“It’s pretty amazing that the administration might be shocked that North Korea is acting as North Korea might normally act,” he said.

Menendez questioned why U.S. officials repeatedly raised the prospect of the “Libya model” as a road map for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“I’m not sure that constantly quoting the Libya model is the diplomatic way to try to get to the results that we try to seek in North Korea,” he said.

In recent weeks, State Department and South Korean officials have privately bristled at the mention of the Libya model — first made by national security adviser John Bolton — aware of how sensitive Pyongyang is to such comments.

Pompeo objected to Menendez’s characterization of a lack of planning, saying the U.S. negotiating team was “fully prepared.”

“We were fully engaged over the past weeks to prepare for this meeting,” he said.

In explaining the summit’s demise, Pompeo said there was a breakdown in communication in recent days between the two preparation teams that he attributed to the North Korean side. “We got a lot of dial tones,” Pompeo said. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that the North Koreans missed a meeting in Singapore last week between the teams.

Pompeo said he hopes to restart conversations with the North Koreans and get the talks “back on track.” He expressed hope that Congress and the executive branch would work together to increase economic pressure on the isolated regime.

Republicans on the committee defended the Trump administration’s decision to cancel.

Trump had his “eyes wide open throughout the process,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.), adding: “He made the right choice” because Kim walked away from his commitment to denuclearize.”

Trump’s letter to Kim brought a sharp rebuke from House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who in a statement called it “a sad example of the petulance and shallowness of the foreign policy being pursued by this President.”

“From the beginning to the present, the dealings with North Korea have been sophomoric and without strategic or tactical merit,” he said.

In a statement after Trump’s announcement, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said it was important for the United States to maintain pressure on North Korean through economic sanctions.

“We must continue to work with our allies toward a peaceful resolution, but that will require a much greater degree of seriousness from the Kim regime,” Ryan said. “At the same time, Congress has provided significant tools to hold North Korea accountable, and it is important that the United States not relent in this maximum pressure campaign.”

Even amid the heightened rhetoric, there were signs Thursday that North Korea continued to be interested in a summit.

North Korea claimed to have destroyed its nuclear weapons testing site Thursday, setting off made-for-TV explosions to collapse a network of underground tunnels where it had detonated six increasingly large bombs over 11 years.

The blasts were reported by journalists brought to the site. But the Kim regime did not allow any experts to observe the events, making it difficult to assess what exactly had been done. Most analysts remain highly doubtful that North Korea is actually prepared to give up its nuclear weapons program.

[North Korea declares its nuclear test site disabled hours before Trump cancels summit]

In his letter, Trump referenced what was widely interpreted at the time as another positive gesture from Kim: the release of three American prisoners into the custody of Pompeo during his visit to North Korea earlier this month.

“Someday, I look very much forward to meeting you,” Trump wrote. “In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.”

As recently as Wednesday, Trump did not tip his hand that he intended to cancel the meeting with Kim.

During an television interview that was taped Wednesday and aired Thursday morning, he said he might accept a “phase-in” of North Korea’s denuclearization.

“We’re going to see. I’d like to have it done immediately,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News Channel. “But, you know, physically, a phase-in may be a little bit necessary. We will have to do a rapid phase-in, but I’d like to see it done at one time.”

Trump had sounded cautionary notes about the prospect that the summit would be delayed or canceled. But he also had heralded the possibility for it to lead to lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and had embraced suggestions — made by Moon and others — that he would be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Asked about that prospect by a reporter just two weeks ago, Trump responded: “Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it.”

“You know what I want to do?” Trump added. “I want to get it finished. The prize I want is victory for the world — not for even here — I want victory for the world. Because that’s what we’re talking about, so that’s the only prize I want.”

Fifield reported from Tokyo. Anne Gearan, Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim and Scott Clement in Washington contributed to this report.

John Wagner is a national reporter who leads The Post’s new breaking political news team. He previously covered the Trump White House. During the 2016 presidential election, he focused on the Democratic campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. He also chronicled Maryland government for more than a decade. Follow @WPJohnWagner
John Hudson is a national security reporter at The Washington Post covering the State Department and diplomacy. He has reported from a mix of countries including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Follow @John_Hudson
Anna Fifield is The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Tokyo, focusing on Japan and the Koreas. She previously reported for the Financial Times from Washington, D.C., Seoul, Sydney, London and from across the Middle East. Follow @annafifield


Iran lists tough conditions for Europe to save nuclear deal

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has given tough terms to Britain, France and Germany if they want to save the 2015 nuclear deal. Pledging not to seek new talks on Iran’s ballistic missiles is one of them.

Iran Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran (Mehr News)

Iranian leader Khamenei on Wednesday published conditions the three European signatories of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal — Germany, Britain and France — must accept to guarantee Iran stays in the agreement.
The move came as the three countries scramble to salvage the accord in the wake of the US’s withdrawal.

What the three European countries must accept:

  • They will pledge to avoid opening negotiations over Iran’s ballistic missile program or actions in the Middle East.
  • European banks should “safeguard trade” with Tehran.
  • They should continue buying Iranian oil and should, if necessary, also buy Iranian oil the US decides not to buy.
  • They should “stand up against US sanctions” on Iran.
  • They should condemn US for reportedly breaking a United Nations resolution that supports the nuclear deal.

Read more: US plan for Iran means economic strife, break with EU

‘We don’t trust them’

Khamenei said, “We do not want to start a fight with these three countries [France, Germany and Britain] but we don’t trust them either.” He also warned that Iran would continue its enrichment of uranium if the terms are not met.

Scramble for Iran: All three European countries have sharply criticized US President Donald Trump’s May 12 decision to withdraw Washington from the deal and have vowed to discuss how to save it with Iran and the other signatories — China and Russia.

Read more: Could America’s hardline policies towards Iran be a dilemma for Arab countries?

Sticking points: Khamenei’s terms put the three European powers in a bind. They have tried to reassure Washington that it would be possible to renegotiate the current deal to curtail Iran’s ballistic missile program and its aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.

Pompeo’s vision: On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded all signatories negotiate a fresh treaty that would encompass not only Iran’s nuclear program, but its defense and foreign policies as well. He warned Iran would face “the strongest sanctions in history” if it did not agree to make changes.

Read more: US strategy on Iran entails regime change

Watch video04:40

Strongest Sanctions in History

amp, dj/rc (Reuters, dpa)

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MH17 was downed by Russian military missile: international investigators

International investigators have said detailed analysis of video images showed the missile used to down the Malaysian flight came from a Russian military unit. Russia has always denied involvement in the incident.

MH17 wreckage (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Zykina)

International investigators probing the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 made their interim findings public on Thursday in the Dutch town of Bunnik.
A surface-to-air missile shot down MH17 on July 17, 2014, over Ukrainian territory, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board. The majority of the passengers were Dutch nationals. The Boeing 777 was on a routine flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur.

The findings of the investigation:

  • The Buk missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was transported from a Russian military brigade.
  • The missile was fired from the Russian military’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade based in the Russian city of Kursk.
  • All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces.

‘Still work to be done’

Chief investigator Fred Westerbeke said the probe was now in its “last phase” but added there was “still work to be done.” He did not say how long would the probe take.

The investigators have presented their findings to Moscow and are seeking answers, but have yet to receive a response.

The team called on the public, including friends and families of the members of Russia’s 53rd brigade, to assist in their inquiries into the incident and come forward with details about the crew operating the missile system.

Fred Westerbeke, Chief Prosecutor of the Dutch Prosecutor's office, presenting interim results in the ongoing investigation of the 2014 MH17 crash.Chief investigator Fred Westerbeke said the probe was now in its “last phase.”

‘Important piece of the puzzle’

Responding to the latest findings, Russian Defense Ministry said not a single Russian missile system had ever crossed its border with Ukraine, state-owned TASS news agency reported.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he will shorten his visit to India by a day in order to join a cabinet meeting on Friday to discuss the new findings.

How countries who lost men and women in the MH17 tragedy reacted

  • Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok called it “an important piece of the puzzle … I am very impressed by the evidence that has been collected.”
  • Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders called on all countries to cooperate fully with the probe “so that those responsible can be brought to justice.”
  • Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the findings “should be of grave international concern. We are discussing these findings with our partners and considering our options.”
  • Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko said there is “every reason to expect that in the near future the Dutch prosecutor’s office will be able to file a prosecution against the individuals involved in shooting down the plane.”

Challenges galore: The latest findings take the investigation one crucial step further by identifying the exact Russian military unit allegedly involved. The next challenge would be to identify members of the crew who operated the missile and determine how high up the chain of command the order originated. But even if the investigators do manage to successfully identify the suspects, it would an onerous task to arrest and bring them to trial.

Online investigator Eliot Higgins who founded Bellingcat told DW on Thursday that investigators had to be very careful in building their case against Russia: “They needed to be 100 percent sure everything they presented was completely correct because just one error and the Russian government would go after them.”

Higgins said there were multiple matches from the evidence: “We know this missile launched in a convoy going to the border with Ukraine. It is completely improbable there was another, identical missile launcher with the same markings that exists anywhere in the world, let alone in that location.”

Who conducted the investigation? The Joint Investigation Team consists of investigators from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine.

A damaged missile is displayed during a news conference by members of the Joint Investigation Team.Investigators displayed parts of the engine casing and exhaust system of the missile recovered from eastern Ukraine

What did the 2015 investigation conclude? The latest findings follow a 2015 report by the Dutch Safety Board which found that the aircraft was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile. The Russian government has consistently denied involvement in the incident.

How have the investigators built on 2015 findings? The latest investigation recreated the route taken by the missile convoy from Kursk across the border into Ukraine using videos and photos. The prosecutors have now identified the exact unit allegedly involved. Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen said on Thursday the team “ascertained that the Buk missile has a number of unique characteristics. These characteristics as such served as a type of fingerprint for the missile.”

How many suspects are there? Dutch prosecutors said in 2016 they had identified 100 people of interest but did not reveal their identities. Investigators on Thursday said that had narrowed the list down to several dozen.

Where will suspects be prosecuted? Under an agreement reached with the countries taking part in the joint probe, any suspects arrested in the case will be prosecuted in the Netherlands.

Karte Flug MH17

ap/aw (Reuters, AP)


One of the most striking things about Harry and Meghan’s official royal wedding photos

May 21 at 2:23 PM

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex pose with their families and wedding party members in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on May 19. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Getty Images)

LONDON — Even some of those who are lukewarm about the British monarchy were looking forward to a wedding that would help the royal family reflect some of the diversity of modern Britain.

Mixed-race British royals are rare enough that you have to go all the way back to the early 1800s to find a candidate: Some historians believe that Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, was of African descent.

An official wedding photo released by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex, highlights the historic nature of their union.

Photographed in the Green Drawing Room of Windsor Castle, Meghan — who has asserted with pride that she is a “strong, confident mixed-race woman” — stands next to her African American mother, Doria Ragland, and is surrounded by senior royals and members of the wedding party.

(Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Getty Images)

1. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
2. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
3. Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of the groom
4. Prince Philip, grandfather of the groom
5. Doria Ragland, mother of the bride
6. Prince Charles, father of the groom
7. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, stepmother of the groom
8. Prince William, elder brother of the groom
9. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, sister-in-law of the couple
10. Princess Charlotte, 3, daughter of William and Catherine
11. Prince George, 4, eldest son of William and Catherine
12. Page boy Jasper Dyer, 6, godson of the groom
13. Page boy Brian Mulroney, 7, son of the bride’s best friend
14. Bridesmaid Ivy Mulroney, 4, daughter of the bride’s best friend
15. Bridesmaid Florence van Cutsem, 3, goddaughter of the groom
16. Bridesmaid Rylan Litt, 7, goddaughter of the bride
17. Page boy John Mulroney, 7, son of the bride’s best friend
18. Bridesmaid Zalie Warren, 2, goddaughter of the groom
19. Bridesmaid Remi Litt, 6, goddaughter of the bride

The official photos were taken by fashion photographer Alexi Lubomirski after the ceremony, which was widely celebrated for combining British and African American traditions. The Archbishop of Canterbury led the couple in their vows. Michael Curry, the first black leader of the Episcopal Church in the United States, delivered a 14-minute barnstorming address that people in Windsor and beyond were talking about long after the service.

Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with their bridesmaids and page boys. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/AFP/Getty Images)

“It has been an incredible honor and privilege to document the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s inspiring journey of love, hope and family,” said Lubomirski, who also took Harry and Meghan’s engagement photos. In a post on Instagram, he said: “This has been a beautiful chapter in my career and life, that I will happily never forget.”

Kensington Palace tweeted that the newlyweds “would like to thank everyone who took part in the celebrations of their wedding on Saturday. They feel so lucky to have been able to share their day with all those gathered in Windsor and also all those who watched the wedding on television across the UK, Commonwealth, and around the world.”

Harry and Meghan on the East Terrace of Windsor Castle. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/AP)

Royal wedding 2018: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle marry

 May 19 at 12:46 PM 
Top moments from the royal wedding

Here are key moments from the wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and America’s Meghan Markle at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on May 19. 

  • Britain’s Prince Harry and America’s Meghan Markle are now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
  • Queen Elizabeth hosted a lunch reception at Windsor Castle for about 600 guests. Elton John performed.
  • More than 100,000 people are estimated to have lined the wedding procession route.
  • The wedding dress was designed by British designer Clare Waight Keller, the first female artistic director at Givenchy.


8:14 a.m.: The procession

The procession! The moment that many in Windsor have been waiting for — in some cases, for days — a chance to clap (misty) eyes on the newlyweds. An estimated 100,000 well-wishers have lined the streets, including the tree-lined road known as the Long Walk, to watch the Duke and Duchess of Sussex pass by. The procession is expected to last about 25 minutes.

“It was spectacular,” Jayne Ralph, 50, a retail manager from Vancouver, said of the moment the newlyweds passed by. Though she suggested it would have been nice if other royals could have driven by and offered a wee wave.

The royal wedding by the numbers
200 Amalfi lemons went into the wedding cake
16 feet of silk tulle made up the bride’s veil
10 pint-sized bridesmaids and page boys participated in the ceremony
175 years since the was another Duke of Sussex
7 charities were chosen by the couple for donations in lieu of gifts
5,000 members of the media received credentials

Gallery: The most stunning hats at the royal wedding

8:11 a.m.: The kiss

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle share first kiss as married couple

After saying their vows, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shared a kiss in front of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle May 19. 

They pass through the floral arch. They pause, and Harry leans in and Meghan leans in and the couple kisses.

They board the Ascot Landau carriage. Prince Charles waves goodbye. The long wedding dress train is addressed. The father-and-son Windsor Grey horses begin to pull them out into the town…

You hear a roar.

8:07 a.m.: God save the Queen

Everyone rises! And belts out the British national anthem.

“God save our gracious Queen,

Long live our noble Queen,

God save the Queen…”

As soon as Meghan Markle becomes a British citizen, as she plans to be, Elizabeth II will be not only her grandmum-in-law but her sovereign.

7:40 a.m.: The vows

Prince Harry removes the veil. (Owen Humphreys/AFP/Getty Images)

Markle repeats the vow. “I Meghan, take you, Harry, to be my husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part…”

The rings are exchanged.

Prince Harry places the ring on Meghan Markle’s finger. (Jonathan Brady/pool photo via AP)

Read more: From Henry VIII to Meghan Markle, how the Church of England has shifted on divorce

7:37: The choir

There’s a real strain of Americaness, of the African American experience, in this service.

Now comes Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir singing the classic “Stand By Me,” by Ben E. King, and once upon a time covered by John Lennon.

7:34 a.m.: The sermon

Meet Bishop Curry, the man who stole the show at the Royal wedding

Rev. Michael Curry delivered the sermon during the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The sermon was a nod to the African American experience. 

The Most Reverend Michael Curry performs a rousing address.

Bishop Curry is the first African American to preside over the Episcopal Church.

“There’s power in love,” he tells the couple, who are seated and holding hands.

“We were made by a power of love and our lives were meant to be lived with that love,” he says.

Playing off the style of a classic American black preacher, he does an amazing, theatrical discourse on the power of love — to heal wounds, to end poverty, to guide government. On BBC, there are cut-aways to the look on the prim and proper faces of royals.

As he closes, he says has to close, “we gotta get ya’ll married.”

“Well, that was forceful…,” says the BBC announcer.

Read the fiery sermon at the royal wedding

7:16 a.m.: Princess Diana’s sister

Princess Diana’s sister reads at royal wedding

The Lady Jane Fellowes, the late Princess Diana’s older sister, read a passage from the Song of Solomon at Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle May 19. 

The Lady Jane Fellowes, the late Princess Diana’s older sister, reads a classic wedding passage from the Bible’s Song of Solomon.

“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. Set me as a seal upon your heart, as seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave…”

And some more bits about flashes of fire, a raging flame and unquenchable love.

Read more: Princess Diana won’t be forgotten at the royal wedding. Her sons still mourn her death.

7:13 a.m.: “The Declarations”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via REUTERS)

The guests are standing and led in “The Declarations.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury says:

“First, I am required to ask anyone present who knows a reason why these person may not lawfully marry, to declare it now.”

This is always an awkward moment.

There is silence. Meghan Markle smiles.

Harry and Meghan also declare their love, and faithfulness — but these are not yet the upcoming vows.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. (Jonathan Brady/AFP/Getty Images)

7:07 a.m.: Markle walks down the aisle

The service begins with a musical fanfare by the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry. As Markle begins to process down the aisle, the orchestra plays George Frederick Handel’s “Eternal Source of Life Divine,” sung by soprano Elin Manahan Thomas.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle watch as the bridesmaids and page boys walk down the aisle. (UK Pool/Sky News via AP)

7:03 a.m.: Inside the chapel

Markle’s mother Doria Ragland has been seated. Harry and William are sitting side-by-side inside the chapel gate, Harry looking slightly nervous. The bridesmaids and page boys arrive, looking cute as heck.

Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwell, Camilla Parker Bowles, enter the chapel.

Charles will walk Markle part-way down the aisle.

Prince Charles walks Meghan Markle down the aisle. (UK Pool/Sky News via AP)

7:00 a.m.: The reveal of the dress

First glimpse of Meghan Markle’s wedding dress

Actress Meghan Markle arrived at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for her wedding to Prince Harry May 19. 

Meghan Markle’s wedding dress was designed by British designer Clare Waight Keller, the first female artistic director at the French fashion house Givenchy.

Markle and Keller worked closely together on the design, we are told.

The fashion house tweeted that the dress was “inspired by all 12 signs of the Zodiac, the Zodiac Signs collection features artisanally carved rings and earrings to convey the wearer’s character.”

Here’s the verdict from Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan:

The dress isn’t everything but it is a lot. And the Givenchy haute couture gown chosen by Meghan Markle for her marriage to Prince Harry told a story about contemporary romance, geopolitical history  and the institution into which she has married. But mostly, most importantly, it offered a bit of insight into the bride herself.

The sleek white gown, with its six strategically placed seams, was stitched from a heavy silk with a subtle sheen. A simple bateau neckline gracefully framed her face. The body of the dress subtly outlined her waist and flowed into a full train. But what was most noticeable were all the things that the dress was not. It was not a Hollywood red carpet statement. It was not a Disney princess fantasy. It was not a mountain of camouflaging tulle and chiffon.

The dress was free of extravagant embellishments. It was not covered in yards of delicate lace. It did not have a single ruffle — no pearls or crystals. Its beauty was in its architectural lines and its confident restraint. It was a romantic dress, but one that suggested a clear-eyed understanding that a real-life romance is not the stuff of fairy tales. The dress was a backdrop; it was in service to the woman.

Read more: The dress was beautiful, but the woman wearing it was unforgettable

6:42 a.m.: Princes Harry and William arrive

Prince Harry arrives with his brother, Prince William. (Gareth Fuller/AFP/Getty Images)

The red-bearded Prince Harry marches in a happy gait toward the chapel’s West Door, alongside his best man, his older brother and second in line to the throne, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

Both Harry and Will are wearing the uniforms of the Blues and Royals.

Bespoke, cut and sewn by hand, Harry’s frockcoat is made of blue doeskin, in a single breasted style, with figured braiding. He is wearing his Pilots’ Wings and a medal honoring his service as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan.

Next up: the dress reveal. In the press room at Windsor, of course, we know what it is. But there are armed guards outside.

6:30 a.m.: Meghan Markle is on her way

Meghan Markle rides toward Windsor Castle (Darren Staples/REUTERS)

Meghan Markle and her mum, Doria Ragland, have left nearby Cliveden House for the drive to Windsor Castle. The pair are being driven in a well-waxed vintage Rolls-Royce Phantom IV. Through the window, there’s a glimpse of the dress. It is white. Details to follow. On her veiled head, Markle wears a diamond bandeau.

6:28 a.m.: Move over Princess Beatrice: There’s a new hat queen in town.

(Photo by Karla Adam)

One of the true delights of any British wedding is watching out for British hats. As expected, there has been some stiff competition on the streets of Windsor today. But this hat, which has a swan perched on top, stands out.

Debbie Hoover, from Amarillo, Texas, says she has always been “fascinated” by the royal family, and, for her 50th birthday, decided to take in the royal wedding festivities. She had heard that Queen Elizabeth II owned all of the swans in Britain, so searched for a swan hat online. “I was hoping it would get some attention,” she says. “It sure has.”

6:04 a.m.: Serena Williams primps

A couple hours before the wedding, tennis star Serena Williams posted photographs of herself on Instagram getting ready for the day — wrapped in a towel, having a facial.

She showed off the results a minute ago.

Serena Williams attends royal wedding

Tennis star Serena Williams arrived at the British royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor May 19 with her husband, Alexis Ohanian. 

5:55 a.m.: Elton John is here

Elton John at the royal wedding

Elton John attended the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle May 19 at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. 

Elton John strolls by. It is rumored he may perform at one of the two receptions to follow the wedding service. (He sang “Candle in the Wind” at the funeral for Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.) Inside the chapel, the press pool cameras are lingering on the Clooneys, especially Amal, in a lemony gold dress and hat. Almost all the women are dressed in hats. The men are divided: some in suits, others in traditional morning coats with vests.

5:43 a.m.: Inside the castle walls

(Photo by William Booth)

Scott Ross is a leader of the Royal Air Force cadets. He and his wife, Nicola, drove down from Scotland to take a seat on the castle lawn. They’re among the 2,640 members of the public invited inside the walls. A 10-hour drive? “It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” Ross says. He notes that it will be a long time before Prince William and Catherine’s little kids are old enough to wed.

5:30 a.m.: The Clooneys and the Beckhams

George and Amal Clooney arrive for royal wedding

Actor George Clooney arrived at the British royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor May 19 with his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. 

Just seeing the Clooneys now — the actor George, the human rights lawyer Amal — getting off the bus and walking to the chapel entrance. Right behind them are David and Victoria Beckham, the soccer star and his former Spice Girl.

5:05 a.m. The rings

Kensington Palace just told us hacks:

Harry and Meghan chose Cleave and Company to make their wedding rings. Markle’s ring “has been fashioned from a piece of Welsh Gold, gifted by Her Majesty The Queen. Prince Harry’s ring will be a Platinum Band with a textured finish.”

4:58 a.m. Prayer for the day

The Church of England has let us know the special prayer for the day:

God of love,

send your blessings upon Harry and Meghan,

and all who are joined in marriage,

that, rejoicing in your will

and continuing under your protection,

they may both live and grow

in your love all their days,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


4:47 a.m.: Oprah makes her entrance.

Oprah arrives at the royal wedding

Oprah Winfrey arrived at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle with Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle May 19. 

Among the invited guests now entering the chapel is global media personalty Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah is wearing lilac dress with sunglasses and a large hat. She is seated in the A-List section in the chapel’s quire.

4:39 a.m.: The scene at St. George’s Chapel

(Photo by William Booth)

You say “chapel,” you may think small, intimate. But St George’s Chapel, completed by Henry VIII in 1528, is a soaring masterpiece — of what we are told is a classic of the “perpendicular gothic” style. The Washington Post and colleagues were given a quick peek insider for “atmospherics.” The floral arrangements are a wild meadow of aromatic whites: mayflowers and dusky cranebills. The towering arrangements were designed by the florist Philippa Craddock as a “cascading hedge-grow.” Smells heavenly.

4:18 a.m.: Does this woman look like Meghan Markle?

(Photo by Karla Adam)

That’s what one person thought. He approached Layla Morris, 38, who works in credit control, and asked if she was the actress from “Suits.” As a fan of “Suits,” herself, Morris was amused. “I watched all of Suits. Meghan stood out. She as the girl you wanted to be,” she says.

She lives 90 minutes away and brought her children, 7 and 3, to Windsor to soak up the atmosphere. “They are very excited, but can’t understand why they are not invited.”

4:08 a.m.: Not everyone is royal wedding mad

Let’s be clear: Much of this city is royal wedding crazy. The dogs are wearing Union Jack-themed scarves, for heaven’s sake. But venture off the main streets around Windsor Castle, and you’ll find residents whose thoughts on the wedding can best be described as meh.

“It’s just another day. I don’t see what all the fuss is about,” says Leon Johnson, 34, a gas engineer who is pushing a buggy near water fountains that barefoot children were gleefully running through.

He wishes the royal couple well, for sure, and says that Markle’s background “broke the mold” of what it meant to be a royal. (She’s a biracial American divorcee with an established career.) But he says that the vendors selling royal souvenirs on the main streets around the castle are “a money-making scam.”

Will he least turn on the telly to catch a glimpse of the global spectacle on his doorstep?

He might “take a little peak,” he says, but stresses he wouldn’t linger long. “There is football on!”

Today is the FA Cup final, with Chelsea playing Manchester United at Wembley Stadium in London.

4:03 a.m.: “It means a lot in terms of race relations”

Vanessa King, 65, from Florida (left), and her friend Marzy Bedford-Billinghurst, 60, from Washington. (Photo by Karla Adam)

Marzy Bedford-Billinghurst, 60, an American who grew up in Britain and now lives in Washington, says that once she heard about the wedding, as a black woman who has biracial children, she decided she had to come.

“It means a lot in terms of race relations,” she says. That the fact that the royal family, “of all entities, would modernize themselves and embrace this woman of color because the prince loves her — that just means so much to me. I’m just overjoyed. I think she’s just wonderful, fabulous and I’m just so excited.”

3:52 a.m.: It’s five o’clock somewhere

(Photo by Karla Adam)

Craig Skinner, 28, (left) and Alex Cox, 28, (right) are sipping gin and tonics. When asked what they are drinking, Cox responds: “Want one?”

This is Cox’s second royal wedding, but the first one he’s watching from the ground. At William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, he was one of those riding a horse as part of the Household Cavalry, a personal escort for the royal family. “It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of stress,” he said, noting this time he is happy to just enjoy “all the good British pomp and ceremony” as a spectator.

3:46 a.m.: The scene from sun-kissed Windsor

Windsor is a gorgeous city, with Windsor Castle, the queen’s weekend residence, towering dramatically over the scene. Today, the sun-kissed city looks something like a festival: There are bubble machines, dogs wearing scarves, people of all ages wearing fake crowns. Many people camped out overnight in order to get the best view of the carriage procession.

Street vendors are hawking British flags and American flags. There are ladies with ridiculously fabulous hats that look like small UFOs. The local Marks & Spencer has (temporarily?) changed its name to Markle & Sparkle. A local pub has permanently changed its name to the “Prince Harry.” If Harry & Meghan-themed merchandise is your thing — everything from tea-towels to life-sized cardboard cutouts of the smiling couple — this is the place to be.

3:44 a.m.: Who has traveled furthest for this wedding?

Peter McFarlane, 52, a health aide from Australia could be a contender for that title. We have met people who have flown in from the United States, Canada and Jamaica, but McFarlane hopped on a “27-hour bloody flight” from Australia to be at — or nearish — the nuptials. He slept on the street on Friday night, where it was “bloody freezy, this bloody English summer,” in hopes of keeping his prime position to see the carriage procession.

He wanted to come in person since, he figured, this was the last royal wedding for some time. “I had to make the effort,” he said, waving Union Jack flags in each hand.

3:23 a.m.: Inside the castle walls

(Photo by William Booth)

Harry and Meghan invited 2,640 “regular” folk to attend the wedding and watch from the gardens inside the Windsor Castle walls. These guests represent charities the couple, especially Harry, has supported over the years — like Surfers against Sewage, and environmental and veterans groups.

Alan Scott, 69, from Lincolnshire has been involved in British Scouting for 45 years. He and his partner set up lawn chairs outside St George’s Chapel. “Splendid!” Scott said. “I think it’s amazing that we are all invited.”

Scott brought a picnic hamper of pork pies. “And some champagne,” said his partner, Julie Frisby.

2:41 a.m.: Paper crowns and plastic tiaras

The streets of Windsor town are lined with Harry and Meghan fans, wearing paper crowns and plastic tiaras. Some have spent the night camped out.

Security is tight. Specialist squads of police hefting automatic rifles stand sentry by the statute of the late Queen Victoria outside the Henry VIII gate to Windsor Castle.

Vendors selling royal wedding  “tat” — British slang for souvenirs — are doing brisk business.

2:30 a.m.: Welcome to our live coverage

Martin Oates, senior carriage restorer, polishes the Ascot Landau carriage that will transport the couple around Windsor. (Victoria Jones/Pool via AP)

You want regal pageantry, gilded spectacle, the royal Ascot Landau carriage pulled by a pair of father-and-son Windsor Grey horses? The Archbishop of Canterbury bedecked in his robes, the St. George’s Chapel Choir belting out the choral anthems to the rafters? Then good morning to you.

Britain’s Prince Harry is set to wed American actress Meghan Markle, and they’ll be treating us to full-on fairy tale, complete with a pint-size prince and princess as page boy and bridesmaid.

Markle will be driven from Cliveden House manor to the medieval masterwork of St. George’s Chapel, within the walls of Windsor Castle, where she will be warmly welcomed by a polite backdrop of 1,200 invited do-gooders from favored charities.

There will be the Reveal of the Dress. The Kensington Palace PR squad will blast the details. Then Prince Charles, Harry’s father, will walk his future daughter-in-law down the aisle. (Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, has been sidelined by heart problems and media-induced stress.)

Bishop Michael Curry, the first African American to preside over the Episcopal Church, is to deliver a sermon. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will lead the couple in vows from the Book of Common Prayer.

Immediately afterward, the couple, who will be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will parade by carriage through the streets of Windsor town, where as many as 100,000 Brits and foreign visitors will be wearing outrageous hats and waving Union Jacks and the Stars and Stripes to celebrate the ultimate in special relationships: Harry’s royal marriage to a California girl.

We’ll have live coverage. Follow our updates here.

Bubbles, flags and dogs in scarves: Scenes from the day before the the royal wedding

Post reporter Karla Adam spoke to some of the royal wedding fans who turned out in the town near London the day before the ceremony was set to take place. 

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Video: British kids on the royal wedding and American accents

Quiz: Test your knowledge of royal wedding trivia

North Korea Warns It Will Shelve Korean Talks Unless Concessions Are Made

Pyongyang appears to double down on its complaints a day earlier against Washington and South Korea

North Korea said it would shelve inter-Korean talks indefinitely unless Seoul made concessions on military exercises and on public criticism of the North’s attempts at dialogue, in comments attributed to Ri Son Gwon, pictured, a senior North Korean official with oversight of inter-Korean relations.
North Korea said it would shelve inter-Korean talks indefinitely unless Seoul made concessions on military exercises and on public criticism of the North’s attempts at dialogue, in comments attributed to Ri Son Gwon, pictured, a senior North Korean official with oversight of inter-Korean relations. PHOTO: KOREA PRESS POOL

SEOUL—North Korea’s latest tirade, threatening to shelve inter-Korean talks unless Seoul ends U.S. military exercises and muzzles public criticism of the North, heralds a shift toward a more strident tone from Pyongyang that will test Washington and Seoul’s willingness to engage with the North.

Pyongyang’s latest statement, which slammed South Korea’s liberal government as “an ignorant and incompetent group devoid of the elementary sense of the present situation,” adds more uncertainty to a thaw in relations with the U.S. and the South that has led to plans for a summit meeting next month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Despite the criticism, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Trump and U.S. officials are “prepared and will be ready to meet and we’re continuing to move forward with the preparations.”

“If the North Koreans want to meet, we’ll be there,” she said. She added the U.S. would continue with a “maximum pressure campaign” of isolation and economic penalties against North Korea until a deal is reached to remove the country’s nuclear weapons.

In a statement published late Thursday and attributed to Ri Son Gwon, a senior North Korean official with oversight of inter-Korean relations, the North appeared to double down on its complaints a day earlier against Washington and Seoul.

In the statement, Mr. Ri criticized joint U.S.-South Korean air force exercises that it has deemed a provocation, and demanded that Seoul silence criticisms from Thae Yong Ho, a prominent North Korean defector who has cast doubt on Pyongyang’s intentions.

“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,” Mr. Ri was quoted as saying.

Denuclearization: Trump-Kim Summit Hinges on Finding a Common Definition

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both say they want denuclearization, but they may have different definitions of the word. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday explains.

A spokesman for the presidential office in Seoul declined to comment.

The remarks from Mr. Ri come a day after the North pulled the plug on a planned inter-Korean meeting to discuss trust-building measures and threatened to walk out of the planned summit with Mr. Trump, slated for June 12 in Singapore.

Those moves surprised the White House and the presidential office in Seoul, though both the U.S. and South Korea responded in relatively measured tones, expressing its intention to continue to push toward a summit meeting.

The latest strong words from Pyongyang on Thursday, however, sharpen the North’s position and sparked consternation from longtime North Korea watchers, some of whom have warned that Pyongyang’s recent string of conciliatory actions—in particular, the shuttering of a nuclear test site and the freeing of three U.S. detainees in the North—would soon be followed by intemperate demands.

“All I can say is, ‘When will we ever learn?’” said David Straub, a former senior U.S. diplomat who served in South Korea, who described the latest North Korean statement as “part of its tried-and-true playbook of jerking around its negotiating ‘partners.’”

“It’s time for everyone to wise up,” Mr. Straub said.

Unlike the pair of statements Wednesday, the North’s screed on Thursday took direct aim at the liberal administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which has pushed consistently for dialogue with Pyongyang, even as conservatives here have accused him of being too cozy with the regime.

Mr. Moon has called for economic engagement with the North and, less than three weeks ago, shook hands and joked with Mr. Kim at a dramatic inter-Korean summit that made headlines around the world.

Standing next to Mr. Kim after signing a joint declaration in late April, Mr. Moon told reporters that “there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.”

The latest remarks from the North appeared to douse out that sense of inter-Korean fraternity and optimism. Pyongyang also accused the administration of “inciting hostility and division” by engaging in the military exercises and by allowing Mr. Thae to criticize the North.

After the North’s protests, Mr. Moon responded with “a string of lame excuses and pretexts,” Mr. Ri was quoted as saying.

Nam Sung-wook, a former South Korean intelligence official, predicted that the North’s more aggressive demands could delay, or even scuttle, the planned Trump-Kim summit.

“The North’s real facade has been revealed,” said Mr. Nam, now a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University. “By blaming South Korea, North Korea is not only dividing Seoul and Washington, it’s also putting Moon Jae-in into a corner, because now he’s probably unsure as to what to do.”

In the first of its two earlier statements on Wednesday, the North said that a joint U.S.-South Korean air force exercise, dubbed Max Thunder and involving the advanced F-22 Raptor fighter jet as well as the possibility of bombers, was a rehearsal for invasion that belied the South’s ill intentions.

It also took aim at Mr. Thae, the North’s deputy ambassador to London before he defected to the South two years ago and began speaking out against Pyongyang.

On Monday, Mr. Thae told reporters at the National Assembly in Seoul that the North would never accept the U.S.’s demand for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization because it would “strike at the core of North Korea’s power structure.”

The North didn’t name Mr. Thae directly in its statement, but slammed Seoul for “allowing even human scum to brazenly hurl mud at the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and its system and play down the Panmunjom Declaration in front of the building of the ‘National Assembly.’”

The North regularly refers to defectors as “human scum.” The DPRK is an acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Panmunjom Declaration was the agreement signed by the two Koreas at last month’s summit.

In a second statement on Wednesday, the North criticized the U.S., saying that national security adviser John Bolton’s insistence on the North rapidly surrendering its nuclear program was a nonstarter, warning that it would back out of any talks.

Shin Beom-cheol, a former senior adviser to South Korea’s defense and foreign ministries, said he believed that North Korea was adopting a more confident tone after having secured the support of China in a pair of recent summit meetings between Mr. Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On Wednesday, a senior North Korean Politburo member met with Mr. Xi in Beijing for a third high-level meeting between the two neighbors in less than two months.

“From North Korea’s perspective, they’ve signed onto an insurance plan, so that’s why they’re making their thoughts heard loud and clear,” said Mr. Shin, now a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies , a private think tank in Seoul.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at and Andrew Jeong at


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