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Trump says summit with North Korea may still be on

Trump had called off the summit on Thursday, accusing North Korea of “displaying tremendous anger and open hostility”. But he left the door open for the meet, saying if Kim changed his mind, he could “call me, or write”.

world Updated: May 25, 2018 22:52 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Kim Jong Un,Singapore
US President Donald Trump(Bloomberg)

In a stunning reversal, US President Donald Trump on Friday said his officials are back in touch with North Korean and a summit with Kim Jong Un, which had cancelled just the previous day, could still take place on June 12.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters when asked about the summit. “We’re talking to them now. It was a very nice statement they put out. We’ll see what happens.”

He added: “It could even be the 12th (of June). We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it. We’re going to see what happens.”

Trump had called off the summit on Thursday, accusing North Korea of “displaying tremendous anger and open hostility”. But he left the door open for the meet, saying if Kim changed his mind, he could “call me, or write”.

North Korea did issue a conciliatory statement later, in which Kim Kye Gwan, a top foreign ministry official said: “We would like to make known to the US side once again that we have the intent to sit with the US side to solve problem(s) regardless of ways at any time.”

The official also went on to praise Trump for “having made the bold decision, which any other US presidents dared not, and made efforts for such a crucial event as the summit”.

Trump seemed mellowed by that statement, later tweeting: “Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea. We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!”

It wasn’t clear yet if the summit is still on or whether it will be rescheduled.

Trump personally dictated the letter to Kim on Thursday, in which he had called off the meeting, amid growing signs of skittishness from Pyongyang accompanied by an alarming rise in sharp rhetoric.

Last week a team of US officials hoping to hold preparatory talks with North Korean officials was left waiting in Singapore. A senior White House official said: “The North Koreans didn’t tell us anything, they simply stood us up.”

The official also spoke of “broken promises” on the part of North Koreans.

There were also reports that Trump decided to call off the meeting to pre-empt a North Korean withdrawal, and to avoid looking strung along and abandoned by Kim.

Roadblocks had begun popping up as demonstrated by the US team being stood up in Singapore at a meeting arranged by secretary of state Mike Pompeo, the senior-most American official to have been in direct contact with Kim.

Pompeo, who read out Trump’s letter at the start of his hearing before the US Senate’s foreign affairs committee, had sought to reassure lawmakers that the administration was prepared to go through with the talks. But he couldn’t conceal his frustration.

“Over the past many days, we have endeavoured to do what chairman Kim and I had agreed, which was to put teams, preparation teams together to begin to work to prepare for the summit — and we have received no response to our inquiries,” he said.

That was an alarming admission from the top American negotiator with North Korea, reflecting growing unease about the talks on both sides.

His spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters on Friday they had anticipated problems. “We always knew there would be twists and turns leading up to this meeting on June 12. We never expected it to be easy, so none of this comes as a surprise to us.”

The conciliatory note struck by Pyongyang may have been reassuring, with the North Korean foreign ministry official addressing Trump’s complaint about “tremendous anger and open hostility”.

“As for the ‘tremendous anger and open hostility’ referred to by President Trump, it is just a reaction to the unbridled remarks made by the US side, which has long pressed the DPRK unilaterally to scrap nuclear programme ahead of the DPRK-US summit,” the official said.

First Published: May 25, 2018 22:52 IST