US President Donald Trump on Thursday cancelled his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over what he said was “anger and open hostility” from the hermit nation.
In a letter to Kim, Trump kept the door open for talks to take place on June 12 or later. “If and when Kim Jong-un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting,” he wrote.
In a letter to Kim, Trump started by reminding him that it was North Korea that requested the meeting. He wrote: “I was very much looking forward to being there with you (in Singapore). Sadly, based on tremendous anger and open hostility displayed by in your recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this, long planned meeting.
“If you change your mind having to do with this most important meeting, please do not hesitate to call me or write.”
Trump’s reference of “anger and open hostility” was perhaps about a statement in which a senior North Korean official had called Vice-President Mike Pence a “political dummy” and “ignorant and stupid” on Wednesday.
He also cautioned Kim: “You speak about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
There was no response from North Korea to the letter.
In later remarks, Trump also warned North Korea that the US military is “ready if necessary” to respond to a “foolish or reckless act” by Pyongyang, and that he has spoken to Japan and South Korea — the US’s allies in the region. He also said sanctions against North Korea would continue as part of the campaign of “maximum pressure”.
Earlier on Thursday, North Korean state media had announced that it had “completely shut down” its nuclear testing site in a remote part of the country as proof of its intent to denuclearise, a key demand by the Americans.
Sceptics, however, have pointed out that the site had been damaged in a recent incident and there were those who said North Korea did not need the site anymore, having wrapped up its nuclear programme already.
Trump and Kim were scheduled to meet in Singapore on June 12 for what was expected to be a historic and groundbreaking summit. Among the many objectives it sought was an end to the Korean War — Seoul and Pyongyang have only signed an armistice agreement — and the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
However, prospects of the talks taking place as scheduled had become uncertain in recent days. Trump, at press conference with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in on Monday, had said the summit could be cancelled or postponed. He had not cited any reasons but said he had noticed a change in the attitude of North Koreans after a recent, and second, visit by Kim to China.
Statements from North Korean officials had suddenly turned sharp and were marked by the kind of insulting tone language commonly used by them before the recent warming of ties. One official targeted national security adviser John Bolton by name for suggesting the Libyan Model for negotiations with North Korean. The official spoke of “feeling of repugnance towards him (Bolton)”.
On Thursday, they targeted Pence. “As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president,” said Choe Son Hui, a vice foreign minister who previously handled ties with the US. She also called Pence a “political dummy”.
North Korea seemed annoyed by Trump administration officials’ talk of the so-called “Libyan model”. Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons programme between 2003 and 2004 in return for relief from sanctions. In 2011, he was forced out of office during a NATO-led military intervention in 2011 and was killed by rebel forces while on the run.
First Bolton and then Pence had suggested that Libya was what could happen to North Korea if it did not go ahead with denuclearisation.