By David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON - American President Donald Trump on Thursday called off a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for next month, citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility,” and warned that the U.S. military was ready in the event of any reckless acts by North Korea.
Trump wrote a letter to Kim to announce his abrupt withdrawal from what would have been a first-ever meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader in Singapore on June 12.
“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it would be inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote. “Please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”
Earlier on Thursday, North Korea had repeated its threat to pull out of the summit, which was intended to address concerns about its nuclear weapons program, and warned it was prepared for a nuclear showdown with Washington if necessary.
In a statement at the White House, Trump said he was still open to dialogue but had spoken to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and warned North Korea against any “reckless act.” He said the U.S. military was the most powerful in the word and was ready if necessary.
Trump said South Korea and Japan also were ready to shoulder much of the financial burden “if an unfortunate situation is forced upon us” by North Korea.
“While many things can happen and a great opportunity lies ahead potentially, I believe that this is a tremendous setback for North Korea and indeed a setback for the world,” Trump said.
Asked if cancellation of the summit increased the risk of war, he replied: “We’ll see what happens.”
Trump said the United States would continue its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
“North Korea has opportunity to end decades of poverty and oppression by following the path of denuclearization and joining the community of nations,” Trump said.
“I hope that Kim Jong Un will ultimately do what is right not only for himself, but perhaps most importantly what’s right for his people, who are suffering greatly and needlessly.”
Last month Trump had praised Kim as “very honorable” while preparing for the summit but the outlook for the meeting suffered a setback this month after North Korea angrily rejected the notion that it would agree to unilateral nuclear disarmament as the United States has demanded.
Trump canceled the summit a few hours after North Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its main nuclear test site, which Pyongyang said was proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.
A small group of international media selected by North Korea witnessed the demolition of tunnels at the Punggye-ri site on Thursday.
The apparent destruction of what North Korea said was its only nuclear test site had been widely welcomed as a positive, if largely symbolic, step toward resolving tension over its weapons. Kim has declared his nuclear force complete, amid speculation the site was obsolete anyway.
Despite Trump’s cancellation, South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged Trump and Kim to talk directly to each other.
“Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of permanent peace are historic tasks that can neither be abandoned nor delayed,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted Moon as telling an emergency meeting with his top security officials.