One day after abruptly pulling the plug on a high-stakes summit with North Korea, US President Donald Trump said Friday the meeting with Kim Jong Un could go ahead after all — and would “likely” happen on the originally scheduled date of June 12.
Image: Donald Trump
The summit would be an unprecedented meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, which Washington hopes will result in the full denuclearization of the reclusive state.
Trump said in a tweet that “very productive talks” were ongoing with North Korea about reinstating the summit.
“If it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date, June 12th,” he wrote, adding the meeting could be extended further if necessary.
On Thursday, Trump cancelled the summit that was due to take place in Singapore, blaming “tremendous anger and open hostility” from Pyongyang in recent days.
But North Korea responded Friday by saying it was willing to talk to the United States “at any time” a reaction Trump welcomed as “warm and productive.”
“We’re talking to them now,” Trump said of the North Koreans. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there was “possibly some good news” on the summit, while White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters: “If the meeting takes place on June 12, we will be ready.”
On Saturday, South Korea, which had brokered the remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang, cautiously welcomed Trump’s latest comments.
“We find it fortunate that the embers of the North Korea-US talks are reignited. We are watching developments carefully,” Presidential Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-gyeom said.
Trump’s initial cancellation of the summit blindsided treaty ally Seoul, with President Moon Jae-in calling the move “shocking and very regrettable”.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert cast the fast-moving developments as simply “twists and turns” in the process.
“We never expected it to be easy,” Nauert told reporters.
But the whiplash from the White House was unusual even for the chaos-loving president. In March, apparently acting on impulse, Trump agreed to the talks with Kim after only limited input from aides.
In a letter to Kim, Trump blamed Pyongyang for his decision to call off the summit, and warned North Korea against committing any “foolish or reckless acts” while also highlighting America’s “massive and powerful” nuclear capabilities.
North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump’s decision “unexpected” and “regrettable” but sounded a conciliatory tone, saying officials were willing “to sit face-to-face at any time.”
Just before Trump announced the cancellation of the meeting, North Korea declared it had completely dismantled its nuclear test site in the country’s far northeast, in a carefully choreographed goodwill gesture.