North Korea says still open to talks with US

North Korea says still open to talks with US

Korea DMZ
North Korean soldiers stand guard before the military demarcation line on the north side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on Apr 26, 2018. (Photo: Korea Summit Press Pool/AFP)

SEOUL: North Korea on Friday (May 25) said it was still willing to talk to the United States after President Donald Trump cancelled a summit between the two countries, a decision Pyongyang described as "extremely regrettable".

"The abrupt announcement of the cancellation of the meeting is unexpected for us and we cannot but find it extremely regrettable," Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister, said in a statement carried by the state-run KCNA news agency.

"We had set in high regards President Trump's efforts, unprecedented by any other president, to create a historic North Korea-US summit," said the vice foreign minister.

"We again state to the US our willingness to sit face-to-face at any time in any form to resolve the problem," Kim added.

Kim also said that Trump's decision to scrap the summit that was planned to take place in Singapore on Jun 12 was not in line with the world's wishes and that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had made utmost efforts to hold the summit.

The summit is urgent in order to resolve "grave hostile relations", he said. 

Trump had called off the anticipated summit with Kim blaming "open hostility" from the North Korean regime and warning Pyongyang against committing any "foolish or reckless acts".

In a letter to Kim, Trump wrote that he would not go ahead with the meeting following what the White House called a "trail of broken promises" by the North.

North Korea last week failed to attend a meeting with the US to work on logistical preparations for the summit. 

"The North Koreans didn't tell us anything. They simply stood us up," the White House said. 

NUCLEAR SITE DECOMMISSIONED

Trump's letter came just after North Korea announced it had completely dismantled its Punggye-ri nuclear test facility "to ensure the transparency of discontinuance of nuclear test".

With Trump saying he is keeping the door open to diplomacy and North Korea apparently still looking to benefit from a thaw with South Korea, such steps could be constrained - or at least tempered - by a mutual desire to keep things from spiralling out of control.

But with a new exchange of super-charged rhetoric driving the United States and North Korea from the negotiating table, there is growing concern that words could be matched with action, including renewed shorter-range missile tests or stepped-up cyber attacks by Pyongyang and increased sanctions or deployment of new military assets by Washington, analysts said.

Trump, in scrapping the June 12 summit in Singapore, sounded a bellicose note, warning Kim of the United States' greater nuclear might, reminiscent of the president's tweet last year asserting that he had a “much bigger” nuclear button than Kim.

Speaking later, Trump said the US military stood ready if Kim were to take any "foolish" action.

Asked if the summit cancellation increased the risk of war, Trump replied: "We'll see what happens."

He said the United States would continue its "maximum pressure" campaign of sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who worked hard to help set up the summit and urged Trump at a White House meeting on Tuesday not to let a rare opportunity slip away, said he was "perplexed" by the cancellation. He urged Trump and Kim to talk directly.

Pyongyang had not responded in recent days to queries by the United States as it tried to prepare logistics for a June 12 leaders' summit, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a Senate hearing.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Tokyo understands Trump’s decision to cancel the Singapore summit, Kyodo News reported.

“It’s meaningless to have talks that don’t achieve results,” Kono told reporters on a visit to Mexico City, the news agency said.

The news of the cancelled summit prompted a deluge of derisory comments on Twitter, including many about the now discounted commemorative coin pre-minted for the occasion.

The "President Trump United States and Korea Summit" coin, which was the "deal of the day" at the White House Gift Shop on Thursday, shows gold embossed images of Trump and Kim facing each other with a montage of their countries' flags in the background. Kim's title is designated as "Supreme Leader".

Source: AFP/Reuters/de/hm

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