BY JESSE BYRNES AND MAX GREENWOOD – THE HILL – 5-24-18 ~~
North Korea signaled Thursday that it is still open to talks with the United States after President Trump canceled a planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement broadcast by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that Pyongyang is willing to talk with the U.S. at any point, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
The North Korean official said that Trump’s decision to cancel the June 12 meeting in Singapore was unexpected, arguing the move was not in the world’s interest.
“We reiterate to the US that there is a willingness to sit down at any time, in any way, to solve the problem,” the official said, according to the KCNA.
Trump canceled the meeting in a letter released by the White House earlier Thursday (May 24), which cited Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” toward the U.S.
“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote.
Parts of Trump’s letter took a mournful tone, saying that “this missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.” But at one point, the letter sought to remind Kim of the nuclear arsenal Washington commands.
“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 wrote.
Trump’s withdrawal from the meeting also seemed to take South Korean officials by surprise. President Moon Jae-In said he was “very perplexed”by the decision and urged Trump and Kim to engage in talks.
The summit already appeared to be on shaky ground days before Trump called it off. Last week, Pyongyang abruptly canceled a planned meeting with South Korea, citing Seoul’s joint military drills with the U.S.
The North also threatened to back out of the talks with Trump if he insisted on “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”
But despite the threats, the Trump administration continued to appear optimistic that a meeting would take place.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that U.S. officials were continuing their preparations for the summit. And in a Fox News interview aired hours before the letter to Kim was released, Trump said there was a “good chance” that the summit materialized.
In the lead-up to Trump’s decision to back out of the summit, U.S. officials had become concerned about how serious the North was about the talks.
A senior White House official said on Thursday that North Korean officials failed to show up to a recent meeting with U.S. officials.
“They waited and they waited,” the official said. “The North Koreans never showed up. The North Koreans never told us anything. They simply stood us up.”
A photo released by South Korea’s Blue House hints at the mood in the room as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his cabinet met for an emergency midnight session to discuss news that President Donald Trump abruptly canceled his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The move was likely a major blow to Moon, who has been working to reestablish ties between the two Koreas. He held a summit with Kim less than a month ago and the two agreed to work towards officially ending the Korean war.
Moon had visited Trump just one day prior to prepare him for upcoming talks, and South Korean officials stated the meeting had high chances of going through as planned.
The White House may not have notified South Korea of its decision, and will likely affect relations between South Korea and North Korea moving forward.