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Trump still sees June 12 Singapore summit with Kim

Agence France-Presse
Trump still sees June 12 Singapore summit with Kim
(UPDATED) US President Donald Trump tweets: 'We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!'

WASHINGTON, US (UPDATED) – US President Donald Trump said Saturday, May 26, that things are moving “very nicely” towards a summit on June 12 in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“It’s moving along very nicely,” Trump said at the White House during a meeting with a US prisoner freed by Venezuela.

“We’re looking at June 12 in Singapore. It hasn’t changed,” he said.

Trump rattled the region on Thursday by cancelling his June 12 meeting with Kim in the Southeast Asian city-state, citing “open hostility” from Pyongyang.

But within 24 hours he reversed course, saying it could still go ahead after productive talks were held with North Korean officials.

“There are meetings going on as we speak,” Trump said. “I think there’s a lot of goodwill.”

His comments came after North Korea said Kim was “fixed” on holding the summit with Trump, raising hopes the historic meeting might still take place after a turbulent few days of diplomatic brinkmanship.

The latest conciliatory declaration from Pyongyang came as the White House confirmed it was sending a team to Singapore to prepare for the talks — a further signal that both sides were moving to cool tensions following a rollercoaster few days on the Korean Peninsula.

Earlier on Thursday, May 24, Trump wrote to Kim saying he would not go ahead with the summit in Singapore, following what the White House called a “trail of broken promises” by the North.

Trump blamed “open hostility” from Kim’s regime for his decision to call off the talks, and warned North Korea against committing any “foolish or reckless acts.”

But Pyongyang’s reaction to the sudden U-turn was conciliatory. First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump’s decision “unexpected” and “regrettable.” But he left the door open for talks, saying officials were willing “to sit face-to-face at any time.”

Just before Trump announced the cancellation of the meeting, North Korea declared it had “completely” dismantled its nuclear test site in the country’s far northeast, in a carefully choreographed goodwill gesture ahead of the summit.

‘Shocking’ 

The US summit cancellation earlier blindsided treaty ally South Korea, which until now had brokered a remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang, with President Moon Jae-in calling the move “shocking and very regrettable.”

China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally, urged the two foes to “show goodwill,” while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the parties to keep talking, as did host Singapore, and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held out hope the talks would eventually take place.

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.

But he said talks could still go ahead “at a later date.”

Politically, Trump had invested heavily in the success of the planned summit.

As the date drew nearer, however, 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 deterrent until it feels safe from what it terms US aggression.

US aides stood up 

A senior White House official earlier said Pyongyang had demonstrated a “profound lack of good faith” in the run-up to the summit – including standing up the White House’s deputy chief of staff, who had travelled to Singapore for preparatory talks.

The White House viewed North Korea’s objections to the latest US-South Korean joint military exercise – and its recent cancellation of a meeting with the South Koreans – as a breach of its commitments leading up to the summit.

It also was unhappy about the North’s failure to allow international observers to verify the dismantling of the Punggye-ri test site, the staging ground for all 6 of its nuclear tests which was buried inside a mountain near the border with China.

But the North’s Kim Kye Gwan countered that Pyongyang’s angry statements were “just a backlash in response to harsh words from the US side that has been pushing for a unilateral denuclearization.”

Both Pence and Trump’s hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton had raised the specter of Libyan leader Moamer Khadafi, who gave up atomic weapons only to die years later at the hands of US-backed rebels.

Experts warned that cancelling the meeting could have knock-on effects, especially among allies already rattled by Trump’s unpredictability.

“In a contest of who can be the most erratic leader, President Trump beats Kim Jong Un hands-down,” Joel Wit, founder of the respected 38 North website which monitors North Korea, wrote on Twitter.

“His unsteady hand has left everyone scratching their heads, including our ROK (South Korean) allies.”

But others said Trump’s willingness to walk away could extract further concessions from Pyongyang.

“North Korea will have to propose more detailed plans for denuclearization if it wants to talk in the future,” said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies. – Rappler.com

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