On Thursday, Mr Trump announced he was pulling out of the Singapore meeting with Kim Jong-un, citing “open hostility” Pyongyang had displayed in recent comments. Hours later, North Korea said it was still willing to talk, “at any time in any form” and vice-foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan said Mr Trump’s decision was “extremely regrettable”.
On Friday, Mr Trump responded to North Korea, saying on Twitter, it was “very good news to receive the warm and productive statement”.
Shortly after that, Mr Trump spoke to reporters before departing in his Marine One helicopter for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he was due to address graduates.
Asked about his decision to pull out of the summit, and North Korea’s subsequent statement, he said: “We’ll see what happens. We are talking to them now.”
The Associated Press said the president’s surprise exit from the planned talks on Thursday had capped weeks of high-stakes brinkmanship between the two unpredictable leaders over nuclear negotiating terms for their unprecedented sit-down.
The US announcement came not long after Mr Kim appeared to make good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site. But it also followed escalating frustration and fresh rhetoric from North Korea, in response to increasingly hard comments from US officials as to what they expected from Pyongyang’s “denuclearisation”.
Such were the comments from Mr Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, who said North Korea should give up its weapons as a starting point for negotiations, that some analysts believed he was trying to scupper the talks before they started.
On Friday, asked by a reporter if he believed North Korea was “playing games”, Mr Trump replied: “Everybody plays games.”
He added: “They very much want to do it, we’d like to do it.”
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, a staunch ally of Kim Jong-un, said the North Korean leader had in fact done “everything that he had promised in advance, even blowing up the tunnels and shafts” of the site. Mr Putin said of the cancellation announcement: “In Russia we took this news with regret.”
Mr Trump, in his letter to Mr Kim, objected specifically to a statement from a top North Korean foreign ministry official. That statement referred to Mike Pence, the US vice-president, as a “political dummy” for his comments on the North and said it was up to the Americans whether they would “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown”.
Underscoring the high stakes, Mr Trump said he had spoken with military leaders, as well as Japan and South Korea, and stressed that the United States was prepared for any threat.
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