U.S. President Donald Trump canceled the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday due to the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in Kim's recent statement. This comes hours after Pyongyang claimed it dismantled a nuclear test site in its northeastern mountains.
“I was very much looking forward to being there with you,” Trump said in a letter released by the White House. “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.”
The letter further said: “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.”
Trump said following the announcement that he had spoken with Defense Secretary James Mattis and allies and that that the U.S. is more ready than ever before to counteract any North Korean threat. American forces are "ready if necessary," Trump said at a White House bill signing event.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday in his first comments after the cancellation that Pyongyang had not responded in recent days to queries by the United States as it tried to prepare logistics for the summit.
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“We've not been able to conduct the preparations between our two teams that would be necessary to have a successful summit,” Pompeo told a Senate hearing, adding that Pyongyang's recent statements were regrettable.
This week, Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News that if Pyongyang does not go along with talks to give up its nuclear weapons, it could “end like the Libya model ended” — repeating rhetoric first used by Trump's top security adviser, John Bolton. When asked to clarify if he was threatening Kim as the “Libya model” ended with regime change and death for Moammar Gadhafi, Pence added this is not a “threat' so much as a “fact.”
Choe Son Hui, a North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs, was quoted Thursday by the North’s state-run news agency as calling Pence “ignorant” and “stupid.”
“We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us,” KCNA quoted her as saying. “Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”
Pyongyang threatened earlier this month to cancel the summit over military exercises between Seoul and Washington that it has long claimed are invastion rehearals.
Also Thursday, North Korea carried out what it said was the demolition of its nuclear test site, setting off a series of explosions over several hours in the presence of foreign journalists.
The explosions at the nuclear test site deep in the mountains of the North's sparsely populated northeast were centered on three tunnels into the underground site and a number of observation towers in the surrounding area.
The planned closing was previously announced by Kim ahead of the now-canceled summit.
The demolition came as the North lobbed another verbal salvo at Washington, calling Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy" and saying it is just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.
The North's decision to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has generally been seen as a welcome gesture by Kim to set a positive tone ahead of the summit. Even so, it is not an irreversible move and would need to be followed by many more significant measures to meet Trump's demands for real denuclearization.
By bringing in the foreign media, mainly television networks, the North is apparently hoping to have images of the closing — including explosions to collapse tunnel entrances — broadcast around the world.
The North did not invite international inspectors to the ceremony, which limits its value as a serious concession.