Donald Trump cancels summit with Kim Jong-un

US president cites ‘tremendous anger and open hostility’ of recent N Korea statement

In a letter read out by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, President Donald Trump has called off a planned historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Video: Reuters

 

Fears of renewed nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula intensified on Thursday night after Donald Trump abruptly pulled out of a planned summit with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, next month.

Less than three weeks before the highly anticipated meeting in Singapore, the White House released a letter from the US president to Mr Kim blaming the decision on North Korea’s recent negative statements about Washington.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Mr Trump wrote. “The Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

Speaking in the White House shortly afterwards, Mr Trump said the summit could go ahead at a later date if Mr Kim was open to constructive dialogue. But he also warned North Korea that the United States had the most powerful military capability in the world, and stood ready if Mr Kim were to take any “foolish” action. “We will never ever compromise the safety and security of the United States of America,” he said.

Responding to the news, North Korea’s vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan said the North was open to resolving issues with the US.

“We had set in high regards President Trump’s efforts, unprecedented by any other president, to create a historic North Korea-US summit,” he said in a statement released by the North’s central news agency.

“We tell the United States once more that we are open to resolving problems at any time in any way,” he said.

A senior White House official said the US had been planning the summit, planned for June 12th, in “good faith” but that North Korea had left a “trail of broken promises”, including not showing up to a preparatory meeting with officials in Singapore last week. Mr Trump had considered the matter on Wednesday night, the official said, and made his decision on Thursday morning, dictating the letter word for word.

‘Extraordinary turnaround’

The decision to cancel the summit marked an extraordinary turnaround for the US president, who agreed to the historic meeting in March, against the advice of many of his aides. Mr Trump’s relationship with the North Korean dictator has see-sawed between open hostility and admiration. He dubbed him “Little Rocket Man” last autumn but described him as “very honourable” last month.

The main trigger for the decision to cancel the summit appeared to be comments by a senior North Korean official carried by North Korean state media overnight lambasting vice-president Mike Pence as a “political dummy” and warning of a nuclear showdown.

But broader concern about the meeting – and the evident gap between the countries’ respective understanding of the term “denuclearisation” – had been building in the White House in recent days. North Korea too had warned that it could withdraw from the summit, citing US national security adviser John Bolton’s suggestion that Libya’s dismantling of its nuclear weapons programme in 2003 could be used as a model for North Korea.

Tunnel destruction

Mr Trump’s decision was announced hours after North Korea appeared to destroy tunnels at an underground nuclear test site. Foreign reporters at the Punggye-ri site in the northeast of the country witnessed what they said was a huge blast .

The destruction of the site was seen as a major concession by Pyongyang as it prepared for the first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president, though US officials pointed out that international weapons experts were not invited to observe the demolition.

The cancellation of the summit will be a blow to South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who held a historic meeting with Mr Kim last month and travelled to Washington this week to meet Mr Trump.

As recently as Tuesday, senior South Korean officials said they were “99 per cent” certain the summit would go ahead. Mr Moon convened a late-night emergency cabinet meeting in South Korea after the news broke of the summit’s cancellation.