Trump Cancels Summit With Kim Jong Un
Seemingly out of the blue, the June 12th summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been canceled by the United States.
Seemingly out of the blue, but at the same time consistent with recent news that has shown the talks between the United States and DPRK, President Trump has sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un canceling the summit that was scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12th:
WASHINGTON — President Trump has notified Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that he has canceled their much-anticipated meeting, which was set for June 12.
In a letter dated Thursday to Mr. Kim, the American president said he would not attend the summit due to “tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement.”
He was referring to recent comments from a North Korean official who described Vice President Mike Pence as “ignorant and stupid.”
In an interview on Monday with Fox News, Mr. Pence said relations with North Korea “will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal.”
He was referring to the fate of the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan dictator. Colonel Qaddafi gave up his nuclear program in 2003 in the hope of negotiating with the West, but was killed by rebels in a 2011 uprising after his government was weakened during military action from the United States and its European allies.
More from The Washington Post:
President Trump on Thursday canceled a planned summit next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” from the rogue nation in a letter explaining his abrupt decision.
“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump said to Kim in a letter released by the White House on Thursday morning.
The summit had been planned for June 12 in Singapore.
South Korea’s government seemed blindsided by Trump’s announcement.
“We are attempting to make sense of what, precisely, President Trump means,” said government spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.
In his letter, Trump held open the possibility that the two leaders could meet at a later date to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which Trump has been pushing.
The decision came amid hostile warnings from North Korea in recent days that it was reconsidering participation, including a statement that the United States must decide whether to “meet us in a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”
A close aide to Kim unleashed a torrent of invective against the Trump administration Thursday morning, calling Vice President Pence a “political dummy” for remarks he made Monday in a television interview that made reference to the downfall of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.
North Korea has bristled at Trump administration suggestions that it follow the “Libyan model” to abandon its nuclear efforts. Gaddafi was killed in 2011 during anti-government chaos.
“I was very much looking forward to being there with you,” Trump said in his letter. “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.”
Here’s the text of the letter that Trump has sent to Kim Jong Un:
Dear Mr. Chairman:
We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. l was very much looking forward to being there with you. 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. 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. You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.
I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.
If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.
Donald J. Trump
President of the United States of America
And here’s the President’s tweet on the matter:
Sadly, I was forced to cancel the Summit Meeting in Singapore with Kim Jung Un. pic.twitter.com/qEoi9ymUEz
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2018
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, happened to be on Capitol Hill this morning for what was supposed to be a hearing about the State Department budget, but which obviously quickly veered off into discussions about this latest development. In his early testimony, Pompeo offered some clues about what led to the announcement:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said that President Trump canceled his planned summit with North Korea in part because the United States did not receive replies from Pyongyang on preparations for the meeting.
“I don’t believe in that sense that we’re in a position to believe that there could be a successful outcome,” Pompeo said. “I think that’s what the president communicated pretty clearly in his letter.
“I can add to that. Over the past many days, we have endeavored to do what Chairman Kim and I had agreed, which was to put teams, preparation teams together to begin to work to prepare for the summit and we have received no response to our inquiries from them.”
Pompeo was testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee moments after the White House released a letter from President Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un canceling the summit that was planned for June 12 in Singapore.
“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in the letter.
The Washington Post has some more detail about Pompeo’s remarks about the cancellation of the summit:
In reaction to the canceled summit, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on committee, admonished the Trump administration for a “lack of deep preparation.”
“It’s pretty amazing that the administration might be shocked that North Korea is acting as North Korea might normally act,” he said.
Menendez also questioned why U.S. officials repeatedly raised the prospect of the “Libya model” as a roadmap for denuclearization the Korean Peninsula.
“I’m not sure that constantly quoting the Libya model is the diplomatic way to try to get to the results that we try to seek in North Korea,” he said.
Pompeo objected to Menendez’s characterization of a lack of planning, saying the U.S. negotiation team was “fully prepared.”
“We were fully engaged over the past weeks to prepare for this meeting,” he said.
In explaining the summit’s demise, Pompeo noted that in recent days, there was a breakdown in communication between the U.S. and North Korean preparation teams. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that North Koreans missed a scheduled meeting in Singapore last week between the preparation teams.
In a statement after Trump’s announcement, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said it was important for the United States to maintain pressure on North Korean through economic sanctions.
“We must continue to work with our allies toward a peaceful resolution, but that will require a much greater degree of seriousness from the Kim regime,” Ryan said. “At the same time, Congress has provided significant tools to hold North Korea accountable, and it is important that the United States not relent in this maximum pressure campaign.”
This somewhat surprising statement came after a period of a few weeks or less during which it appeared that the path to Singapore might not be as smooth as it appeared to be on the surface. Late last month, for example, the new National Security Adviser John Bolton appeared on several Sunday morning talk shows and suggested that the United States was looking at the “Libya model” for the upcoming talks with the DPRK and the means by which to achieve the goal of “denuclearization” that the Administration has said was at the center of its approach to the upcoming summit. As I noted at the time, Bolton’s reference to Libya was obviously referring to the events of 2003 when, largely in response to the American invasion of Iraq, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi approached the United States and its allies with a proposal to give up its “weapons of mass destruction” research program. Less than ten years later, of course, Qaddafi ended up dead on the side of a road at the hand of his own people during the climax of a civil war in which the United States, United Kingdom, and France chose to intervene.
Needless to say, the North Koreans did not react very well to this allusion, but nonetheless, it seemed on the surface that things were moving forward. Just over a week after Bolton’s comments, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to North Korea and met not only with top North Korean officials but also with Kim Jong Un himself. At the end of those meetings, Pompeo returned home with three Americans who had been held in North Korean prisons for, in some cases, more than a year. Additionally, it was just two weeks ago that the summit itself was officially announced as being set for June 12th in Singapore. Additionally, in a meeting earlier this week with South Korean President Moon Jae-In the President seemed confident that the meeting would go forward. Furthermore, this announcement came just hours after North Korea announced to the world that it had officially dismantled the last elements of its nuclear test site, an event that was witnessed by thirty foreign journalists who were allowed in the country to report on the event. Finally, in an interview that was apparently recorded last night but aired this morning on Fox And Friends, Trump said that the United States might be willing to accept a phased-in path toward denuclearization by the DPRK rather than a plan under which the North Koreans give up all of their nuclear weapons at once.
At the same time that we were seeing these positive developments, there were also signs behind the scenes and in public that were at the very least indicating that the talks between the United States and the DPRK were had hit something of an impasse. Needless to say, for example, the North Korean reaction to John Bolton’s invocation of the so-called “Libya model” was, as you would expect, less than positive. This became even more apparent when Trump himself seemed to countermand his National Security Adviser and suggest that the “Libya model” is what would happen to North Korea if they didn’t agree to give up their nuclear weapons. At that point, many foreign policy advisers observed that Trump’s remarks could easily be interpreted as a threat and that it could lead to a cancellation of the summit. Additionally, we learned this week that the North Koreans had failed to appear for a pre-summit meeting in Singapore, although it was unclear what that might mean. Last week, I noted that the North Koreans were appearing to move the goalposts and specifically pushed back against the idea of Libya being a model for how things would proceed with the DPRK. Things unraveled even further when Vice-President Pence doubled down on Trump’s allusions to Libya in saying that the DPRK would end up like Libya if it didn’t agree to the terms demanded by the United States. This led a North Korean official to respond with a statement calling Pence “ignorant and stupid,” and threatened to cancel the summit. Given all of that, the President’s decision to pull the plug on the summit may have been a preemptive move on the Trump Administration’s part.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this announcement is the fact that it was made without any prior consultation with either the South Koreans or the Japanese. Even though the news broke close to midnight in Seoul, it was reported that South Korea’s President had called an emergency meeting of his cabinet to discuss this matter and no doubt how the country will respond to the announcement. The fact that the South Koreans were apparently caught blindsided by the announcement is even more surprising given the fact that President Moon was in Washington, D.C. meeting with Trump just about 48 hours ago to discuss the summit and the approach to Kim and the DPRK between now and then. Suffice it to say, though, that the idea that an announcement of this type was made without consulting with our two most important allies tin the region is at the very least puzzling.
At this early time, it’s difficult to say what this means going forward. This could end up being a permanent break in a dialogue that began with a conciliatory speech by Kim Jong Un on New Year’s Day which led to a lessening of tensions between North and South Korea, North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics, President Trump’s agreement in March to meet with Kim some time later in the year, and a late April summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In that appeared to be successful. During that period it also appeared that the North Koreans had agreed to the idea that the goal of any future talks would be denuclearization, although it quickly became apparent that the North Koreans have a very different idea of what that means than the United States does. On the other hand, this could end up being just a temporary bump in the road and that we’ll see talks between the U.S. and the DPRK resume and possibly even lead to a Kim-Trump summit at some other time this year. That will depend largely on how things unfold over the coming days and weeks now. For the time being, though, this is clearly a setback and may mean that tensions on the Korean Peninsula are about to rise again after what may have been a temporary suspension.
Update: President Trump made public remarks about the cancelation early this afternoon:
President Trump on Thursday left open the possibility his nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will still take place, just hours after cancelling it.
“It’s possible that the existing summit could take place, or a summit at some later date,” Trump said during a bill signing ceremony at the White House.
Trump added that if Kim takes “constructive actions” before the scheduled June 12 meeting in Singapore, “I am waiting,” but also that “we have to get it right.”
Trump’s comments added even more confusion to his whirlwind attempt to end a nuclear standoff with North Korea with diplomacy.
Even as he kept the door open to talks, Trump threatened a military response if Kim resumes his nuclear activities, saying the U.S. armed forces are “ready if necessary.”
Trump also said his administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions against North Korea “will continue as it has been continuing.”
So, there you have it. Where things go from here depends as much on what we hear from North Korea as anything else.