U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.
In a formal letter to Kim, Trump said the "tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement" makes it "inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting."
"I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you," he wrote.
The immediate trigger was a blustering statement from North Korean vice foreign minister Choe Son-hui, who threatened a "nuclear-to-nuclear" confrontation, but North Korea had also been standing up White House officials who were hoping to meet in Singapore to prepare the summit.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed "the fact that we've not been able to conduct the preparation between our two teams that would be necessary to have a chance for a successful summit."
By the time President Moon Jae-in flew to Washington for a summit with Trump on Tuesday, it was already clear that things were going downhill.
Moon proposed a trilateral summit with Trump and Kim in Singapore right after a Trump-Kim summit as well as an aid program for North Korea, but Trump seemed to feel Moon was jumping ahead.
According to diplomatic sources on Thursday, Moon had reportedly been making preparations on his own for the trilateral summit and formally ending the Korean War if Trump and Kim wound up their summit successfully. Trump did not respond to Moon's proposal right away.
The war of words between the U.S. and North Korea escalated after Washington upped demands for immediate denuclearization and the North became more assertive after Kim's second visit to China earlier this month.
The general feeling was that expectations for the summit were too high, and Trump would find himself with egg on his face after talking up his diplomatic prowess. Trump also reportedly complained to aides that his show might be stolen in case of a trilateral summit, according to sources.
A private tête-à-tête with Moon, which was slated to last half an hour, ended in just 21 minutes, reflecting the awkward atmosphere and Trump's inability to concentrate on business when he could be talking to the media.
"Trump had an impromptu question-and-answer session with reporters for over half an hour, which affected the later schedule," a government source here said. "It wasn't a good sign."
Trump had already minted a coin commemorating the summit with Kim, to much ridicule in the global press, which continued to sell like hot cakes in the White House gift shop after the cancellation was announced.
The cancellation was greeted with shock in Seoul and Pyongyang. National Security Council chief Chung Eui-yong said he will talk with his White House counterpart John Bolton over the phone to find out what motivated Trump and what future plan the U.S. has in store.
Moon is also expected to call Trump soon. He is also considering talking with Kim over the hotline that has been installed between their offices.
In North Korea, "There was a real sense of shock amongst the people I was sitting with, the North Korean officials," said Will Ripley, a CNN reporter shortly after he read Trump's letter to them. Ripley was in Wonsan to report on the North's shutdown of its nuclear test site.
North Korean vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan in a statement said, "We tell the United States once more that we are open to resolving problems at any time in any way."
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