President Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un

Trump: Chris Kleponis / Sipa USA; Kim: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File

Trump Cancels Summit With North Korea's Kim Jong Un

May 24, 2018 - 9:59 am
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- President Donald Trump is cancelling his planned June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un, citing "tremendous anger and open hostility" displayed in a recent statement from North Korea.

The president said he feels it is inappropriate at this time to have this long-planned meeting, which was to be held next month in Singapore.

He calls it a missed opportunity and a truly sad moment in history.

"The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for last peace and great prosperity and wealth," the president writes.

The North Korean statement that the president referred to called Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy" for his comments on the North. Choe Son Hui, a vice minister of foreign affairs, was quoted Thursday by the North's state-run news agency slamming as "ignorant" and "stupid" comments Pence made in an interview with Fox News that compared the nuclear-capable North to Libya. Libya gave up its program at an early stage only to see its longtime dictator overthrown and brutally killed years later.

"While many things can happen and a great opportunity lies ahead potentially I believe that this is a tremendous setback for North Korea and indeed a setback for the world," Trump said later in comments delivered from the White House Thursday.

Trump says the U.S. military is "ready if necessary'' to respond to "foolish or reckless acts'' by North Korea. Trump also says he's been in touch with South Korea and Japan and that both allies are willing to bear much of the financial burden "if such an unfortunate situation is forced upon us.'' 
 
Trump says hopefully "positive things'' will take place with respect to North Korea's future. But he adds "If they don't, we are more ready than we have ever been before.'' 

In the letter, the president said he is someday looking very much forward to meeting Kim Jong Un and also thanks him for releasing three American hostages, calling it "a beautiful gesture" that was "very much appreciated."

He also in his letter includes an ominous note saying, "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."

The president closed the letter by saying, "If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write."

North Korea issued a statement Friday saying it is still "willing to give the U.S. time and opportunities" to reconsider talks "at any time, at any format."

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump's decision "unexpected" and "very regrettable," and said the cancellation of the talks shows "how grave the status of historically deep-rooted hostile North Korea-U.S. relations is and how urgently a summit should be realized to improve ties."

Kim insisted North Korea's "objective and resolve to do our best for the sake of peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and all humankind remain unchanged."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) says achieving a peaceful resolution to the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula will require "a much greater degree of seriousness'' from Kim Jong Un.

"North Korea has long given ample reason to question its commitment to stability. Congress has provided significant tools to hold North Korea accountable," Ryan tweeted. "The US must not relent in this maximum pressure campaign as we continue to work with our allies toward a peaceful resolution."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a staunch Kim ally, said the North Korean leader had in fact done "everything that he had promised in advance, even blowing up the tunnels and shafts" of his country's nuclear testing site. Putin said of Trump's announcement, "In Russia we took this news with regret."

The cancellation was also a shock in South Korea, according to reporter Don Kirk.

“It’s quite a shock, frankly – totally unexpected here as I think it was in Washington and elsewhere. South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, actually has dreams or hopes that maybe Trump and Kim Jong Un can get together somehow. He’s suggesting they talk on the phone today,” Kirk said.

But speaking to WCBS 880’s Steve Scott on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) said he thought the Trump administration failed to lay the proper foundations ahead of the summit. He said the administration needed to go through tough negotiations before – and not at – the summit to understand the depth of Kim’s commitment.

The Trump administration should have found out “what it would take to get him to give up all of his nuclear facilities and weaponry, as well as chemical and biological weapons, as well as the ballistic missile program – all the elements that potentially are a threat to the national security of the United States, and understand what in return would he need or want in order to achieve that? That takes an enormous amount of work, and clearly, that did not happen,” Menendez said.

Also necessary ahead of the summit was a determination that Kim knew exactly was expected of him and his government, Menendez said.

“First you had to understand, what did Kim Jong Un understand as denuclearization? Is it the same definition of ours? Because if it’s the same definition of ours, it’s a total dismantlement and sending it out of the country. Did he understand that verification means intrusive verifications where international organizations like the International Atomic Energy Administration and others would be in North Korea verifying that this took place? Does he understand that he wouldn’t be able to have an intercontinental ballistic missile development, and was he ready to accept that?” he said.

Menendez said he thought Trump came to the conclusion that the summit would not be successful because the foundation was not laid.

He said a summit can only be held once there is a guarantee of equal understandings of what each party is trying to achieve.

“You don’t do it in reverse, ‘Let’s have a summit.’ This is not a mano-a-mano, you know, effort, where two personalities get together and think that they can strike a deal without the preparation,” Menendez said. “And that’s, I’m deeply concerned that that’s exactly what happened. It’s an alarm bell that I’ve been ringing for some time since this was originally announced.”

The cancellation comes as reporters observed what North Korea said was the destruction of its nuclear weapons testing site.

“They have a nuclear testing site – or let’s say they did have it at the village of Punggye-ri, in the mountainous northeast. So that’s what they destroyed, although it had already been largely destroyed by the six nuclear tests last September,” Kirk said.

Western reporters were there to see the test site getting blown up, but there is no way to confirm some other details about the site and the act of its destruction.

“CBS’ Ben Tracy was there, as was CNN’s Will Ripley, and they can confirm that they saw it getting blown up. Now what they can’t confirm are a lot of technical details about what shape it was in already, and what actually had been going on there,” Kirk said. “We know that they have nuclear tests there, but there’s a lot of sort of forensic examination that real experts would like to be able to do.”

North Korea Nuclear Site Demolition
Korea Pool/Yonhap via AP

But North Korea has said no experts will be allowed to examine the site.

“That’s not going to happen. North Korean officials made very clear – to Ben Tracy, in fact – that they believe that they’ve already destroyed the site and there’s nothing for the experts to look at. And they say that’s it, so I don’t think we’re going to see any experts there,” Kirk said.

The president agreed to the historic sit-down in March after months of trading insults and nuclear threats with the North Korean leader. But after criticism from North Korea, Trump cast doubt this week on whether the meeting would happen.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)