Trump calls off summit with Kim after DPRK destroys nuclear site
US President Donald Trump yesterday called off a planned summit with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, even after the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its nuclear test site.
Trump announced his abrupt withdrawal from what would have been a first-ever meeting between a serving US president and a DPRK leader in Singapore on June 12 in a letter to Kim.
“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.”
Trump called it “a missed opportunity” and said he still hoped to meet Kim someday.
In a later statement at the White House, Trump said he had spoken to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and warned the DPRK against any “reckless act,” saying “our military is the most powerful in the world.”
“Hopefully positive things will be taking place with respect to the future of North Korea,” he said. “But if they don’t, we are more ready than we have ever been before.
“In the meantime, our very strong sanctions, by far the strongest sanctions ever imposed, and maximum pressure campaign will continue,” Trump added.
Two hours after releasing his letter to Kim, Trump said the summit could be held later.
Earlier yesterday, the DPRK dismantled its nuclear test site, which consists of tunnels dug beneath Mount Mantap in the northeast of the country, as a group of foreign journalists looked on.
The Punggye-ri test facility is buried inside a mountain in the Hamgyong province, near the border with China, and is DPRK’s only known nuclear test site.
It has been the staging ground for all six of DPRK’s nuclear tests, including its latest and by far most powerful one in September last year, which Pyongyang said was an H-bomb.
A small group of international media selected by DPRK witnessed the demolition, which Pyongyang says is proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.
The blasts were centered on three tunnels at the underground site and a number of buildings in the surrounding area. The DPRK held a closing ceremony afterward with officials from its nuclear arms program in attendance.
The DPRK’s state media called the closure of the site part of a process to build “a nuclear-free, peaceful world” and “global nuclear disarmament.”
“The dismantling of the nuclear test ground conducted with high-level transparency has clearly attested once again to the proactive and peace-loving efforts of the DPRK government being made for assuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and over the world,” its official KCNA news agency said yesterday.
The first blast the visiting journalists witnessed came at around 11am after they made a 12-hour plus trip by train and convoy through the night and over bumpy dirt roads. That explosion collapsed the complex’s north tunnel, which was used for five nuclear tests between 2009 and last year.
Two other explosions, at around 2:20pm and 4pm, collapsed the west and south tunnels, according to officials.
Also blown up were observation posts and barracks used by guards and other workers at the facility. A tunnel on the eastern side of the facility had already been shut down after an initial nuclear test in 2006. The journalists were allowed to stay at the site for about nine hours.
KCNA said there was no leak of radioactive materials or any adverse impact on the surrounding ecological environment.
The South Korean government later welcomed the test site destruction by calling it “the first meaningful step to realize complete denuclearization which DPRK expressed through including the inter-Korean summit.”
DPRK’s offer to scrap the test site has been seen as a major step in months of easing decades of tension with South Korea and the United States.
DPRK announced in April that it would suspend nuclear and missile tests and scrap the test site and instead pursue economic growth and peace.
Last week, Trump sought to placate DPRK after it threatened to call off the summit, saying Kim’s security would be guaranteed in any deal and his country would not suffer the fate of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya. The reference to the case of Libya has angered DPRK.
In a statement released by DPRK media yesterday, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui called US Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” for comparing DPRK — a “nuclear weapons state” — to Libya, where Gaddafi gave up his unfinished nuclear development program, only to be later killed by NATO-backed fighters.
“It is to be underlined, however, that in order not to follow in Libya’s footstep, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean Peninsula and the region,” Choe said.
She said the fate of the summit was entirely up to the US.
“We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us,” Choe said.
She said she could suggest to Kim that DPRK reconsider the summit if the US offended the DPRK’s goodwill.
Earlier this month, the DPRK called the 2018 Max Thunder joint drill between the US and South Korea a deliberate challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration issued by the two Koreas’ leaders. It also announced to suspend high-level talks with South Korea infinitely.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed deep regret over the canceled summit between the DPRK and the US, the Blue House of South Korea said.
“It is embarrassing and very regrettable for the scheduled North Korea-US summit not to be held on June 12,” Moon said at the urgent meeting of the National Security Council.
Moon urgently called in security and diplomatic officials last night after Trump’s cancellation of the planned summit with Kim.
The officials called in were presidential chief of staff, top security advisor, chief of the national intelligence agency and ministers of foreign affairs, unification and defense.
Moon said the Korean Peninsula’s denuclearization and building permanent peace are historic tasks that cannot be delayed nor be given up.
Kim Eui-kyeom, spokesman for the South Korean president, told reporters that the Blue House was attempting to figure out the exact meaning of Trump’s cancellation, according to local media.