US commander: Doors open to future US-NK summit

US commander: Doors open to future US-NK summit

Japanese officials promised to keep pressure on North Korea after President Donald Trump's decision Thursday to cancel a historic summit with Kim Jong Un. Washington's key allies weren't informed in advance.

Women attend a protest against US President Donald Trump near US embassy in Seoul, South Korea, May 25, 2018.

Trump's announcement came a day after Pyongyang hardened its rhetoric, calling comments by Vice President Mike Pence "ignorant and stupid". North Korea instituted a freeze on nuclear and ballistic-missile tests, shut down a nuclear testing site, and released three American prisoners.

On the face of it, the events leading up to the cancellation were predictable.

A White House official quoted by Reuters news agency described the comments about Mr Pence as the "last straw".

Other South Koreans had concerns closer to home.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a Senate committee on Thursday the White House had "tried repeatedly" to connect with North Korea in recent days over plans for the Singapore summit, but received no response. But North Korea is acutely aware that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed by his own people a few years later, with support from a multinational military coalition that included the United States.

Japan said it would maintain "close co-operation" with the US and South Korea.

Yet Trump's equally sudden willingness to walk away from an agreement - a strategy he advocated in his "Art Of The Deal" memoir - might just help to level the playing field. What I am hopeful is that we can continue to have conversations and put this back on track, so that we can get to a place where we can achieve the outcome.

Just hours before the summit was called off, North Korea said it had completely closed its only known nuclear test site, collapsing tunnels used to test weapons in front of a group of about 30 global journalists.

"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", he added.

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The Independent's Samuel Osborne and Andrew Buncombe remark that through this historic meeting "Trump, a natural showman, wanted to pull off something no other U.S. president had done; no sitting United States president has met with either of the three members of the Kim dynasty that have ruled North Korea since its creation in 1948".

The 12 June summit in Singapore would have been the first time a sitting USA president had met a North Korean leader.

What are the prospects for more progress?

"The timing of this letter is. highly questionable", said Abraham M Denmark, director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center.

I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only the dialogue that matters. "I have no doubt that the inter-Korean meeting was held in good intentions, and perhaps Kim really liked Moon for the effort that he is putting in, but it's too much of a great leap to meet with Trump", said private tutor Amanda Toh. "North Korea is going to feel betrayed by this, North Korea will react negatively".

According to the Washington Post, "Trump's hasty jump into a poorly thought-out summit process had left the United States in a weakened position".

Many observers had expected a belligerent North Korean response to Trump's cancellation, but the comments by Kim, the North's vice foreign minister, seemed, at times, nearly meek, and in stark contrast to the bellicose declarations previous year of the North's willingness to pursue nuclear war. Unlike with conventional diplomacy there had been no low-level talks, and no objectives had been fixed. It wasn't even clear that the two sides meant the same thing by "denuclearization".

Ms Hwang was among tens of thousands who watched history being made in April as Kim Jong-un crossed the border to meet President Moon Jae-in. "I think Trump was afraid the outcome of the summit wouldn't be what the public expected, so he cancelled it". Just last week, Pyongyang abruptly cut off high-level contact with Seoul over an ongoing round of military exercises with US troops and then refused until the last minute to allow South Korean journalists onto a pre-arranged media trip to observe the closing of its nuclear test site, which took place on Thursday.

Japan, however, appears relieved.

"The crowning glory of the summit is still important to Kim, but he's gained a lot of legitimacy and attention in the run up without having to give up any nuclear weapons", said Euan Graham, director of the global security program at the Lowy Institute.

Kim Jong-un is not a weak leader and he has shown tremendous capacity to lead North Korea, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the only top USA official to have met the reclusive leader twice in recent weeks. The foreign ministry in Beijing and official China Daily have both noted that the door has not been slammed shut on future talks.

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While ZTE was being punished over the sales to Iran, the ban has become entwined in the trade dispute between the USA and China. Representatives for China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump's statement.

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