Sunday, December 16, 2018 | ePaper

North Korea still open to US talks despite Trump summit cancellation

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An anti-US protester wearing a face-mask depicting US president Donald Trump © kneels between cardboard cutouts of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in ® during a rally calling for more dialogue between the three l

AFP :
North Korea said Friday it was still willing to talk to the United States after President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled a summit between the two countries, a decision that has thrown the Korean Peninsula once more into uncertainty.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday called off his planned June summit with Kim Jong Un, blaming "open hostility" from the North Korean regime and warning Pyongyang against committing any "foolish or reckless acts."  
In a letter to Kim, Trump announced he would not go ahead with the high-stakes meeting set for June 12 in Singapore, following what the White House called a "trail of broken promises" by the North. Pyongyang's immediate reaction to the sudden u-turn was surprisingly conciliatory. First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump's decision "unexpected" and "regrettable" but he left the door open for further diplomacy.
"We again state to the US our willingness to sit face-to-face at any time in any form to resolve the problem," he said in a statement carried by the state-run KCNA news agency. Just before Trump announced the cancellation of the talks, North Korea declared it had "completely" dismantled its nuclear test site, in a carefully choreographed move portrayed as a goodwill gesture ahead of the summit. But the chances of success for the unprecedented face-to-face had recently been thrown into doubt. Trump's announcement came a day after Pyongyang hardened its rhetoric, calling comments by Vice President Mike Pence "ignorant and stupid."
"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," read Trump's letter to Kim, which was dictated word for word by the US leader, according to a senior White House official. "This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history," Trump added. The decision appeared to blindside treaty ally South Korea, which until now had brokered a remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang.
"It is shocking and very regrettable that the US-North Korea summit will not take place as scheduled," South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met Trump in Washington earlier this week, said in a statement as he scrambled his national security team late Thursday. The Pentagon indicated it was braced to respond to possible "provocative actions" on Pyongyang's part. But Trump also held out hope that a meeting with Kim could still take place, saying: "It's possible that the existing summit could take place, or a summit at some later date. Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right."
"If and when Kim Jong Un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting," he added. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the parties to keep talking, as did host Singapore, while Russia's President Vladimir Putin held out hope that dialogue would resume and the talks would eventually take place. Politically, Trump had invested heavily in the success of the planned summit. But as the date drew nearer, the gulf in expectations between the two sides became apparent. Washington has made it clear it wants to see the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization" of the North.

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