US President Donald Trump has called off next month’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility,” and warned the US military is ready in the event of any reckless acts by North Korea.
“We had set in high regards President Trump’s efforts, unprecedented by any other president, to create a historic North Korea-US summit,” North Korea’s vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan 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.
Earlier, Trump wrote a letter to Kim to announce his abrupt withdrawal from what would have been a first-ever meeting between a serving US president and a North Korean leader in Singapore on June 12.
“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it would be inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote. “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.”
Earlier on Thursday, North Korea had repeated its threat to pull out of the summit, which was intended to address concerns about its nuclear weapons program, and warned it was prepared for a nuclear showdown with Washington if necessary.
A White House official said a North Korean official’s condemnation of US Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” was “the last straw” that led to cancelling the summit.
A second White House official said a major factor in Trump walking away was the possibility of a nuclear conflict raised by a North Korean official if diplomacy failed.
“The North Koreans literally threatened nuclear war in the statement released last night,” she said. “No summit could be successful under these circumstances.”
In a statement at the White House, Trump said he remained open to dialogue but had spoken to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and warned North Korea against any “reckless act.”
“We are more ready than we have ever been before,” Trump said.
He said US allies South Korea and Japan also were ready to shoulder much of the financial burden “if an unfortunate situation is forced upon us” by North Korea.
Trump said the United States would continue its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
Trump cancelled the summit just a few hours after North Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its main nuclear test site, which Pyongyang said was proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.
A small group of international media selected by North Korea witnessed the demolition of tunnels at the Punggye-ri site on Thursday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose government had helped set up the summit, said he was “perplexed” by the cancellation and urged Trump and Kim to talk directly to each other.
While Trump’s letter left the door open for talks with Kim, chances for a quick rescheduling appear remote and cancellation of the meeting will renew fears of a return to conflict on the Korean peninsula.
Trump’s letter also referred to the possibility of war.
“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God that they will never have to be used,” he said.
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