Trump hints that North Korea summit may still go ahead

A day after Singapore meeting cancelled, US president says both sides still want to meet

US president Donald Trump:  met with secretary of state Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton on Friday morning. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

US president Donald Trump: met with secretary of state Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton on Friday morning. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

 

The proposed summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may still go ahead on June 12th, US president Donald Trump said on Friday, a day after cancelling the meeting.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Mr Trump said that the US was continuing to talk to North Korea and both sides still wanted to meet. 

“We’ll see what happens. We’re talking to them now. It was a very nice statement they put out. We’ll see what happens.”

He added: “It could even be the 12th. We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it. We’re going to see what happens.”

Asked if the North Korean leader was playing games, the president replied: “Everybody plays games.”

‘Open hostility’

Mr Trump’s comments came a day after he abruptly pulled out of next month’s summit in Singapore, citing North Korea’s “tremendous anger and open hostility”.

“The Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place,” he wrote in a letter to Mr Kim and circulated by the White House.

But in its first response to Mr Trump’s letter, North Korea said in a statement overnight that it was still keen to “sit face to face 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-US summit,” North Korean vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan was quoted as saying by the North Korean news agency.

The conciliatory statement prompted Mr Trump to tweet earlier on Friday: “Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea. We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!”

‘Rooting against us’

In a second tweet, Mr Trump criticised Democrats who are “so obviously rooting against us in our negotiations with North Korea”.

The prospect that the summit could now take place as planned marks the latest twist in an extraordinary diplomatic relationship between the United States and Pyongyang.

Last summer, relations between the two powers reached a historic low as North Korea ratcheted up its nuclear activity and the US president and North Korean leader swapped insults about each other. But a warming of relations developed this year following the visit of a North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February, and the suggestion of a summit meeting by North Korea, which was accepted by Mr Trump.

State department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also expressed optimism that the summit would go ahead at some point. “We always knew there would be twists and turns leading up to this meeting on June 12th. We never expected it to be easy, so none of this comes as a surprise,” she said on Friday.

‘Diplomacy’

Asked if Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the summit had been a blow to secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who had travelled to Pyongyang twice to meet Mr Kim in preparation for the meeting, Ms Nauert replied: “I don’t think so. It’s diplomacy and you always know things are going to have high points and low points. And that’s exactly what a negotiation is.”

Mr Trump met with Mr Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton on Friday morning and was due to meet again with the secretary of state later on Friday at the White House.

The president on Friday also delivered the commencement speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he addressed the graduating class of 2018.

Noting that “we have begun the great rebuilding of the US military”, he said: “We know that the best way to prevent war is to be fully prepared for war and hopefully we never have to use all of this beautiful, powerful new equipment.”

He added: “Our country has regained the respect that we used to have long ago. Yes, they are respecting us again. America is back.”