Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled the planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which was set to take place June 12 in Singapore.
In a letter addressed to Kim and released by the White House, Trump blamed the cancellation on the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent statement by the North Koreans.
“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” he wrote.
“Therefore, 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. You talk about you nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never be used,” the president added.
The president appeared to be referring to a statement by North Korea on Thursday that warned of a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown” with the United States.
The North Koreans were reacting to comments by Vice President Mike Pence this week suggesting that North Korea could face a fate similar to that of Libya, where the leader, Muammar Qaddafi, was deposed and killed and the country fell into chaos. North Korea called the vice president a “political dummy” for the remark.
A senior White House official told NBC News that it was the nuclear threat and not the disparaging statement about Pence that prompted the administration to scrap the meeting.
“The summit would have never been able to work under these circumstances,” the official told NBC News.
The announcement of the cancellation also came shortly after North Korea was said to have destroyed a nuclear test site.
A U.S. intelligence official told NBC News that while that was a potentially important gesture on North Korea’s part, it also may be reversible.
On Tuesday, Trump suggested there was a “substantial chance” that summit wouldn’t happen in June. “If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later,” Trump said in Oval Office remarks alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
North Korea had also canceled high-level talks with South Korea this month.
South Korea said Thursday that it was trying to figure out the circumstances behind the cancellation of the summit, according to Yonhap News, a South Korean news agency.
“(We) are trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it,” a spokesman told the news outlet.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans embraced Trump’s decision to pull out.
“Kim Jun Un, in the words of a wise man ‘Congratulations, you just played yourself.’ Withdrawing from talks with #NKorea is 100% the right decision. #KJU doesn’t want a deal. He has deliberately sabotaged the talks over the last two weeks & was setting us up to take the blame,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said: “The North Korean regime has long given ample reason to question its commitment to stability. We must continue to work with our allies toward a peaceful resolution, but that will require a much greater degree of seriousness from the Kim regime.”
He added, “At the same time, Congress has provided significant tools to hold North Korea accountable, and it is important that the United States not relent in this maximum pressure campaign.”
Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said, “North Korea has a long history of demanding concessions merely to negotiate. While past administrations of both parties have fallen for this ruse, I commend the president for seeing through Kim Jong Un’s fraud.”
However, Democrats expressed concern about the sudden announcement.
“President Trump has a different way of doing business. It’s not one that I think is the right way, but he has a different way,” said Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I hope what we’re hearing today is a strategic decision made by the president, rather than rejecting diplomacy, because diplomacy’s the only way we can proceed.”
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the administration for an alleged lack of preparation for the now-canceled summit.
“The art of diplomacy is a lot harder than the art of the deal,” Menendez said. “Kim Jong Un already received some of what he wanted, a recognition that he could actually be seen as reasonable, and it’s amazing to me that the administration is somehow shocked that the North Koreans are acting as North Korea acts.”