USA officials have repeatedly claimed credit for Washington's "maximum pressure" policy for bringing Pyongyang to the negotiating table. And this may be North Korea's attempt to separate John Bolton from the president and sow some divisions there.
Seeking to move forward with a planned high-profile summit, President Trump said Thursday that Kim Jong Un can count on "protections that will be very strong" if North Korea agrees to get rid of nuclear weapons - but also seemed to threaten regime change if it doesn't.
In a statement released by a state-run North Korean news agency, North Korea's First Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kim Kye Gwan, threatened to pull out of a summit with President Trump scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. You have to remember, that for a very long time, Kim has been talking about how nuclear weapons are the core of his rule and so it's very hard for him to go to the South Koreans and then the Americans and say look, I'm willing to give them up, you know, no big deal.
"With that being said, my attitude is whatever happens happens", Trump said. "South Korea joint military exercise is important to maintain the regional peace and safety".
Robert Kelly, a Koreas analyst from Pusan National University, told Al Jazeera that North Korea may be playing a game of political brinksmanship. North Korea has long claimed the drills are rehearsals for a military invasion.
Trump will host Moon at a summit at the White House on May 22, and the two are expected to discuss the upcoming meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
He also criticized other US comments that the North should completely abandon not only its nukes and missiles but also its biological and chemical weapons.
Some analysts and USA officials believe North Korea may be testing Trump's willingness to soften the United States demand for complete denuclearisation.
If it does go ahead, it will be the first ever face-to-face meeting between a North Korean leader and a US President.
Kim Jong Un took power weeks after former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's gruesome death at the hands of rebel forces amid a popular uprising in October 2011. The North has frequently used Gadhafi's death to justify its own nuclear development in the face of perceived US threats.
But others who have worked closely with the North over the years say there are hardliners who may want to sabotage diplomatic negotiations they believe could imperil the Kim dynasty.
Sanders echoed her boss in leaving open the door to a ratcheting up of the U.S.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis postponed the annual Foal Eagle exercises involving thousands of U.S. and South Korea troops during the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in South Korea.
"The president is ready if the meeting takes place". -South Korean military drills were practicing strikes on strategic targets in North Korea, and accused the South of allowing "human scum to hurt the dignity" of the North's supreme leadership.
Earlier Wednesday, Sanders clarified the administration's plan if the summit were to be canceled.
KCNA also denounced the Max Thunder joint military exercises being held between the US and South Korea as a "rude and wicked provocation", and Seoul said it had received a message cancelling planned high-level talks "indefinitely".