Friday 20 September 2019

Trump pulls out of peace talks and warns Kim: ‘We’re ready’

But US president tells North Korea leader to call if he still wants summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects the completed railway that connects Koam and Dapchon, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Central News Agency yesterday. Photo: Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects the completed railway that connects Koam and Dapchon, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Central News Agency yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Rozina Sabur and Nicola Smith

Donald Trump has threatened Kim Jong-un with military action if he acts in a "foolish" manner after he cancelled their June 12 meeting in Singapore.

The US president said America's military "is ready if necessary" to act after consulting with James Mattis, the US defence secretary, and the joint chiefs of staff.

Mr Trump said he had spoken to America's allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, who were prepared "should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea".

He added: "Hopefully, positive things will be taking place with respect to the future of North Korea.

"But if they don't we are more ready then we have ever been before."

The president cancelled the planned summit in a letter to the North Korean leader on Thursday, warning: "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."

It marks a significant shift in tone from just a few weeks ago, when Mr Trump said the meeting could be a "very special moment for World Peace!"

Mr Trump said he was calling off the meeting because of North Korea's rhetoric in recent comments about his Vice-President, Mike Pence.

The North Koreans hit out at Mr Pence yesterday, calling him "ignorant and stupid" after he warned Kim it would be a "great mistake" to try to play Washington ahead of the planned summit.

Vice-minister of foreign affairs, Choe Son-hui, issued a statement saying North Korea was just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.

"I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting," the president said.

Mr Trump kept open the possibility for future talks with Kim, saying: "If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call or write.

"The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth."


Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, said North Korea's failure to respond to repeated requests from US officials to discuss logistics for the summit was another reason it was cancelled.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr Pompeo said: "We've not been able to conduct the preparations between our two teams that would be necessary to have a successful summit.

"We had received no response to our inquiries from them."

Mr Pompeo said the North's attitude changed markedly since he returned from a trip to Pyongyang earlier this month, when he met with Kim and secured the release of three American prisoners being held there.

However he said he did not think the summit's cancellation was a sign Kim was a "weak leader." "In fact, he has demonstrated enormous capacity to lead his country and his team," he told the committee.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in's office said it was "trying to figure out" Mr Trump's intentions in cancelling the summit.

North Korea claimed it had completely destroyed a nuclear test site as a positive gesture ahead of the planned talks.

The state blew up three tunnels and up to 10 buildings in a series of spectacular explosions yesterday observed by international journalists in line with promises it had made for the June summit with the US.

"There was a huge explosion, you could feel it. Dust came at you, the heat came at you. It was extremely loud," reported Tom Cheshire on Sky News, who was among those invited.

"It blew an observation cabin made out of wood to complete smithereens."

In an official statement, Pyongyang hailed the dismantlement of the remote Punggye-ri site in the mountains of North Hamgyong province as an important step towards a "nuclear-free peaceful world."

Thirty journalists from the UK, US, Russia, China and South Korea spent about nine hours at the location where six nuclear tests have been conducted since 2006.

The most recent, a hydrogen bomb with an estimated yield of 250 kilotons, on September 3 last year, caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, which some believe caused extensive damage to the facilities.

However, amid an ongoing diplomatic thaw with South Korea, Pyongyang announced its plan in April to totally demolish its testing ground as a sign of its genuine commitment to work towards denuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula.

Scientist and North Korea experts have raised questions about whether the site's destruction will have any tangible impact on Pyongyang's already well-advanced nuclear weapons programme, which Kim declared in April was "complete".

But others say the fact North Korea agreed to destroy the site without preconditions or asking for something in return from Washington suggests the regime is serious about change.

The "high-level transparency" of the dismantlement attested to the "peace-loving efforts" of the North Korean government, said an official statement released through the official news agency, KCNA.

"The discontinuance of the nuclear test is an important process moving towards global nuclear disarmament." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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