Trump wrote a letter to Kim to announce his abrupt withdrawal from what would have been the first-ever meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader in Singapore on June 12.
“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it would be inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote.
It was a dramatic end to weeks of optimistic statements from Trump that by meeting with Kim he might succeed where previous U.S. presidents had failed and persuade North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that now threatens the United States.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan responded to Trump’s announcement by saying Pyongyang remained open to resolving issues with Washington “at any time in any way.”
“We had set in high regards President Trump’s efforts, unprecedented by any other president, to create a historic North Korea-U.S. summit,” he was quoted as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency.
On Wednesday evening Washington time, North Korea had repeated a threat to pull out of the summit and warned it was prepared for a nuclear showdown with Washington if necessary.
nd experts say the site could be put back into service or re-established elsewhere.
SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT ‘PERPLEXED’
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who worked hard to help set up the summit and urged Trump at a White House meeting on Tuesday not to let a rare opportunity slip away, said he was “perplexed” by the cancellation. He urged Trump and Kim to talk directly.
The reference to Pence that offended the White House came in a statement released by North Korean media citing Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui. She called Pence a “political dummy” for comparing North Korea - a “nuclear weapons state” - to Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi gave up his unfinished nuclear development program, only to be killed later by NATO-backed fighters.
“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 and behavior of the United States,” Choe said.
Trump had further raised expectations for a successful summit after North Korea released three Americans this month, which he called in his letter “a beautiful gesture” by Kim.
While Trump left the door open for talks with Kim, chances for a quick rescheduling appear remote and the cancellation will renew fears of a return to conflict on the Korean peninsula.
Trump’s letter also referred to the possibility of war.
“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God that they will never have to be used,” he said.
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons prompted fears of war last year after it said it tested an H-bomb and developed a missile capable of hitting the United States.
Rhetoric reached new heights under Trump as he mocked Kim as “little rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary. Kim called Trump mentally deranged.
The summit cancellation denies Trump of what supporters hoped could have been a major diplomatic achievement, worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.
It comes at a time when Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has drawn criticism and his moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem has fueled violence. An investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election hangs over his presidency.
Robert Einhorn, a non-proliferation expert at the Brookings Institution, said it seemed Trump realized he would not get assurances from Kim of a willingness to give up its nuclear weapons.
“He was, I think, reluctant to go to Singapore and come up short,” he said. “This probably was the best choice he could make - much better than having a meeting that would deepen the divisions, lead to angry recriminations and set back any prospect for getting back on track.”
More about: #North-Korea