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Trump cancels summit with Kim, warns NKorea against 'foolish acts'Thu, 24 May, 2018 | Posted By: The Times Of Earth (TOE)

Trump cancels summit with Kim, warns NKorea against 'foolish acts' North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump (REUTERS/KCNA)
US President Donald Trump on Thursday called off his planned June summit with Kim Jong Un, blaming "tremendous anger" and "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, and would instead pursue Washington's campaign of "maximum pressure" through sanctions on Pyongyang.
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 by the isolated regime as a goodwill gesture ahead of the summit.

But the chances of success for the talks -- an unprecedented face-to-face between US and North Korean leaders that Washington hoped would result in full denuclearization of the North -- had recently been thrown into doubt on both sides.

Trump's announcement, which prompted South Korea's president to convene crisis talks, came one day after Pyongyang hardened its rhetoric by attacking Vice President Mike Pence as "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, released by the White House.

"The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history," he said.

The US leader brandished the threat of America's nuclear might in his letter, writing: "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."

In later comments from the White House, Trump vowed that Washington's "very strong sanctions, by far the strongest sanctions ever imposed, and maximum pressure campaign will continue."

And he warned that South Korea and Japan stood ready to respond, along with the United States, "should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea."

The Pentagon similarly indicated it was braced for possible "provocative actions" on Pyongyang's part.

"We are in a boxer stance, we are ready to respond," Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the US military's Joint Staff, told reporters.

But the Republican president also held out hope that a meeting with Kim was still possible, stressing he had been looking forward to the talks -- which he had openly mused could earn him a Nobel Peace Prize.

"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," Trump said.

"If and when Kim Jong Un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting."

- 'Rocking and ready' -

Politically, Trump had invested heavily in the success of the planned summit. Privately, most US officials, as well as outside observers, believed it would go ahead despite the uptick in tensions.

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.

But Pyongyang has vowed it will never give up its nuclear deterrence until it feels safe from what it terms US aggression.

It did however apparently proceed with the dismantling of its Punggye-ri test site in the country's northeast.

A small group of journalists invited to the scene described a series of explosions throughout the day. Three of them were in entry tunnels to the underground facility, followed by blasts that demolished a nearby barracks and other structures.

The Punggye-ri test facility is buried inside a mountain in North Hamgyong province, near the border with China and is North Korea's only known nuclear test site. It has been the staging ground for all six of the North's nuclear tests.

- 'Rocking and ready' -

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the parties to keep talking despite the summit cancellation, as did host Singapore.

In Seoul, meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed "deep regret" and summoned top security aides for emergency talks, according to the country's Yonhap news agency.

Speaking after Trump's letter was released, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- who twice travelled to Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for the summit -- said it was scrapped because a "successful outcome" did not seem possible.

He reiterated however that he had reached "a real understanding" with Kim, and that the American team had been "rocking and ready and prepared for this meeting."

But Democratic congressional leader Nancy Pelosi was scathing towards Trump's administration -- blaming a lack of preparation for the summit collapse and judging Kim to be the "big winner."

"It's clear he didn't know what he was getting into," she said of the US leader. "And now he's walking away from it in this very chummy, palsy-walsy letter to Kim Jong Un."

Abraham Denmark, director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center think tank, warned of the knock-on effects canceling the meeting could have.

"South Korea is also likely to be angered, and the Alliance will take a hit. Expect Seoul to try to continue engagements with Pyongyang, even if it widens a rift with Washington," Denmark wrote on Twitter.

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