North Korea has said it still wants to sit down for talks with the United States ‘at any time, at any formatâ despite President Donald Trump abruptly cancelling his planned summit with Kim Jong Un.
The POTUS cancelled the highly-anticipated meeting yesterday after blamingÂ ‘tremendous anger and open hostilityâ by Pyongyang.
The meeting, scheduled for June 12, had held theÂ promise of a historic peace deal but also the risk of diplomatic meltdown.
Despite President Trumpâs change of heart,Â North Korea issued a statement today saying it is still ‘willing to give the US time and opportunitiesâ to reconsider talks ‘at any time, at any formatâ.
Vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan called Mr Trumpâs decision ‘unexpectedâ and ‘very regrettableâ, and said the cancellation of the talks shows ‘how grave the status of historically deep-rooted hostile North Korea-US relations is and how urgently a summit should be realised to improve tiesâ.
In a letter to Mr Kim announcing his decision to back away from the summit, Mr Trump pointed to Americaâs vast military might and warned the rising nuclear power against any ‘foolish or reckless actsâ.
The letter kicked off a day of mixed messages by the president, who declared hours later that ‘I really believe Kim Jong Un wants to do whatâs rightâ.
Then, after that, a senior White House official said the North lacked judgment and had reneged on its promises ahead of the summit.
Mr Trump said from the White House that a ‘maximum pressure campaignâ of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation would continue against North Korea, with which the US is technically still at war, but he added that it was possible the summit could still take place at some point.
The presidentâs surprise exit capped weeks of high-stakes brinkmanship between the two unpredictable leaders over nuclear negotiating terms for their unprecedented sit-down.
The US announcement came not long after Mr Kim appeared to make good on his promise to demolish his countryâs nuclear test site.
But it also followed escalating frustration from North Korea over comments from Trump aides about US expectations for the Northâs ‘denuclearisationâ.
The senior US official said the North violated a pledge to allow international inspectors to monitor the supposed implosion of the site on Thursday.
International journalists were present, but the US government cannot verify the siteâs destruction.
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 shaftsâ of his countryâs nuclear testing site.
Mr Putin said of Mr Trumpâs announcement, ‘in Russia we took this news with regretâ.
Mr Trump, in his letter to Mr Kim, objected specifically to a statement from a top North Korean Foreign Ministry official.
That statement referred to US vice president Mike Pence as a ‘political dummyâ for his comments on the North and said it was up to the Americans whether they would ‘meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdownâ.
Mr Trump said he had spoken with military leaders, as well as Japan and South Korea, and stressed that the United States was prepared for any threat.
Still, Mr Trumpâs announcement appeared to surprise South Korea, which had pushed to keep the summit on track as recently as Tuesday, when President Moon Jae-in met with Mr Trump in the Oval Office and said the ‘fate and the futureâ of the Korean Peninsula hinged on the talks.
President Moon said on Thursday that it was trying to figure out Mr Trumpâs intentions in cancelling the summit.
Mr Trump was briefed on Wednesday night and made the decision to exit on Thursday morning after consulting with top advisers, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, to whom he dictated the letter, said the senior official.
The question now is how Mr Trumpâs manoeuvring will be received.
His letter could make the situation worse in a society where saving face can be pivotal. Mr Kim might well take offence at the hard-nosed US approach after he released American detainees and destroyed a nuclear site.
Singapore said it regrets the cancellation of the summit that was to be held there next month.