WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday cancelled a meeting planned for next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that would have marked a historic development between the rival countries.
Trump wrote in a letter addressed to Kim that he based his decision on the “tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement”.
“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,” he added, according to a copy of the letter provided by the White House.
“This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.”
Trump and Kim had planned to meet in the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore on June 12 in what would have been a historic sit-down between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
But on Wednesday the North’s vice foreign minister issued an ultimatum to the U.S. that it must decide whether it wants dialogue or war, while suggesting Washington was the party which initially sought the sit-down.
Choe Son-hui warned the U.S. could “taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now,” and singled out U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who she called a “political dummy” for comparing North Korea’s situation with that of Libya before the 2011 death of Muammar Gaddafi.
The North had previously bristled at comparisons to the “Libya model” made by senior U.S. officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Trump walked them back before Pence reiterated the comments Monday.
Earlier Thursday, the North carried out the destruction of its only known nuclear test site in a sign of good will just hours before Trump cancelled the summit.
Following the announcement, the South’s Yonhap News Agency reported South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened a meeting of his top national security officials “to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it”, according to a South Korean presidential spokesman.
Trump told reporters at the White House that he had spoken with South Korea and Japan, who he said “are not only ready should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea, but they are willing to shoulder much of the cost of any financial burden, any of the costs associated by the United States in operations if such an unfortunate situation is forced upon us.”
“Our military,” he said, “is ready if necessary.”
Republican allies hail cancellation
Trump appeared to extend an opening to Kim should he decide to re-open the possibility of a summit.
“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write,” Trump wrote. “The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth.”
Shortly after Trump made the announcement, his Republican allies on Capitol Hill began issuing praise for his decision.
“North Korea has a long history of demanding concessions merely to negotiate,” Senator Tom Cotton said in a statement. “While past administrations of both parties have fallen for this ruse, I commend the president for seeing through Kim Jong Un’s fraud.”
And Senator Marco Rubio said on Twitter: “Kim Jun Un, in the words of a wise man ‘Congratulations, you just played yourself’. Withdrawing from talks with #NKorea is 100% the right decision. #KJU doesn’t want a deal. He has deliberately sabotaged the talks over the last two weeks & was setting us up to take the blame.”
UN head ‘deeply concerned’
In wake of the summit being scuttled, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed his concern, and urged both sides to continue dialogue.
“I am deeply concerned by the cancelation of the planned meeting in Singapore between the President of the United States and the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Guterres said in a speech at Geneva University, when he presented the UN’s disarmament agenda.
“I urge the parties to continue the dialogue to find a path to the peaceful and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Welcoming North Korea’s closure of its nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, Guterres said: “It is regrettable that international experts were not invited to witness the site closing.”
*Fatih Erel contributed to this report from Geneva.