Trump cancels US-North Korea summit with Kim Jong-un

The meeting was due to take place in Singapore on June 12

Samuel Osborne
New York
,Andrew Buncombe
Thursday 24 May 2018 21:10 BST
Trump cancels North Korea summit and brags about military strength: 'Our military is ready if necessary'

Donald Trump has cancelled his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, blaming increasingly hostile rhetoric from Pyongyang.

After several days during which the president appeared to be signalling that secret negotiations ahead of his planned meeting for June 12 were not going well, he said he was pulling out of the meeting because of the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent statement from Mr Kim. He called it a “missed opportunity” and “truly sad moment in history”.

It had been Mr Trump’s ambition to secure a peace deal with North Korea – something that none of his predecessors were able to do – and that has now apparently been placed on the back burner.

“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” he said in a letter to North Korea which was made public. “Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

In a remark that may have reflected Mr Trump’s desire to see himself as the master negotiator, he appeared to leave open the window for a future meeting, if Mr Kim altered his mind. In such circumstances, he said, he hoped Mr Kim would contact him.

Yet the letter also contained a threat that was barely veiled. “You talk about your nuclear capabilities but ours are massive and powerful and I hope they will never have to be used,” he said

In his comments, Mr Trump said he believed that he had been developing a “wonderful dialogue” with the man whom just months ago he mocked as “rocket man” and whose country he threatened to “totally destroy” in a speech at the UN General Assembly.

Mike Pompeo confident US and North Korea have 'shared understanding of ultimate objectives from summit'

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

A number of commentators have voiced concerns that planning for the June 12 summit, which would have represented one of the most signifiant geopolitical encounters since the end of the Cold War, was progressing too quickly. Experts said it may have been more productive to allow Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his team prepare the ground work for the summit, rather than trying to fix a date so soon.

Mr Pompeo, who met Kim twice in Pyongyang, explained the cancellation by saying North Korea had not responded to contacts in recent days and Mr Trump had made his decision after meetings on Wednesday, in which he concluded the summit would not be successful.

“We got a lot of dial tones,” Mr Pompeo said, adding it was disappointing but “frankly not a surprise.”

Speaking at the White House later, Mr Trump said he remained open to dialogue but had spoken to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and warned North Korea against any “reckless act.”

He said US allies South Korea and Japan also were ready to shoulder much of the financial burden “if an unfortunate situation is forced upon us” by North Korea. He added the United States would continue its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Yet, Mr Trump appeared to be caught up in the idea of a breakthrough on an issue, that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had warned would be one of the toughest challenges he would face during his presidency.

At the same time Mr Trump, a natural showman, wanted to pull off something no other US president had done; no sitting US president has met with either of the three members of the Kim dynasty that have ruled North Korea since its creation in 1948.

The announcement by Mr Trump followed ten days or do during which it had become clear that talks with North Korea may not be going so well. While the White House had said the aim of the summit was to bring about the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula, different members of his team made public differences about how this might be achieved.

Two weeks ago, North Korea puled out of a planned meeting with South Korea, citing ongoing joint military drills between the US and South Korea and describing them as a “provocation”. The cancellation of the meeting, coming so soon after historic April 27 summit between Mr Kim and South Korean president Moon Jae-in in the demilitarised area between the two countries, startled many observers and led some to suggest something was wrong.Such suspicions were confirmed when North Korea denounced comments made by Mr Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, who said North Korea should scrap its weapons as a starting point for talks.

After North Korea reacted negatively to such remarks, Mr Trump appeared to try and reassure Mr Kim that the US did not want to pursue the so-called “Libya option” for North Korea, a reference to Muammar Gaddafi unilateral decision in December 2003 to give up his nuclear warning in exchange for better relations with the West. He was ultimately killed in October 2011 following the Arab Spring uprising, after rebels were supported by Nato war planes.

Trump greets US citizens freed from North Korea

While Mr Trump’s comments were seemingly intended to push the point to Mr Kim that he would remain the leader of his country which he said would have a bright future, he also said Mr Kim would receive Gaddafi’s fate if he did not give up his weapons.

On Thursday, North Korea reacted strongly to Mr Pence’s comments, calling him a “dummy” for comparing North Korea to Libya.

Choe Son Hui, a vice-minister in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, said if the US continued on its current path, she would suggest her nation’s that they reconsider the planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behaviour of the United States,” Ms Choe said in comments carried by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency.

It is not clear whether Mr Trump’s announcement he was cancelling the summit, which came hours after Ms Choe’s comments or because of other issues relating to preparations for the summit. Little has been made public about the negotiations that have been led by Mr Kim and Andrew Kim, head of the CIA’s Korea Mission Centre based in Langley, Virginia. A White House official said Ms Choe's condemnation of Mr Pence as a “political dummy” was “the last straw” that led to cancelling the summit.

Christine Ahn, a Korea expert and founder of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women that has worked for peace on the Korean peninsula, said from Seoul she was not entirely surprised by developments, given the US’s rhetoric towards North Korea.

She said she believed there were people within Mr Trump’s administration, notably figures such as national security adviser Mr Bolton, who did not want the talks to proceed. As such, he had undone much of the work done by Mike Pompeo.

“Trump has left open the door, there is still the desire there,” she told The Independent. “But he needs to start acting like a global leader and stop talking about his weapons.”

She added: “Clearly what we all want is deescalation. We need both sides to put away their differences and put decades of mistrust aside.”Following Mr Trump’s announcement, Mr Pompeo said North Korea did not respond to repeated requests from US officials to discuss logistics for the now-cancelled summit.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader in the House, claimed Mr Trump had not known what he was getting into with his planned talks with Mr Kim. She said cancellation of the summit was a "good thing for Mr Kim".

The development came as a small group of international media selected by North Korea witnessed the demolition of tunnels at the Punggye-ri site on Thursday, which Pyongyang said was proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.

Reuters said the apparent destruction of what North Korea says is its only nuclear test site has been widely welcomed as a positive, if largely symbolic, step towards resolving tension over its weapons. North Korean leader Mr Kim has declared his nuclear force complete, amid speculation the site was obsolete anyway.

Dr Sojin Lim, senior lecturer in Korean studies at Britain’s University of Central Lancashire, said the process of denuclearisation would “undoubtedly become more complicated now that the summit has been cancelled”.

“A carefully thought-out, step-by-step approach to building a relationship is desperately needed, but this has so far been complicated by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un’s conflicting personalities,” she said.

“It will now be up to South Korea to try to bring the two countries back into some sort of dialogue – however, North Korea’s burgeoning relationship with China means that it is now far less dependent on the US, so it will be even more difficult to re-establish negotiations between the two countries.”

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