Wednesday 20 June 2018

Summit with Kim could still take place - Trump

US President Donald Trump at a Navy event yesterday. Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
US President Donald Trump at a Navy event yesterday. Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Ben Riley-Smith

Donald Trump performed yet another about-turn on North Korea yesterday, suggesting the June 12 meeting with its leader Kim Jong-un could be back on.

The US president praised the "warm and productive" statement issued by North Korea following his abrupt decision on Thursday to pull the plug on the Singapore summit.

Protesters with a portrait of US President Donald Trump stage a rally against the United States’ policies near the US embassy in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday. Photo: AP
Protesters with a portrait of US President Donald Trump stage a rally against the United States’ policies near the US embassy in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday. Photo: AP

His reaction came after a senior North Korean official expressed "great regret" at America's withdrawal and insisted the regime remained open to talks "at any time".

US Defence Secretary James Mattis also said yesterday that the meeting could take place as planned, provided "our diplomats can pull it off".

But whether logistics and policy planning can take place in the time remaining is in doubt. A senior White House official cited North Korea's failure to attend a planning meeting in Singapore and lack of communication when explaining Mr Trump's initial decision to cancel the summit.

But yesterday, North Korea appeared to have reopened diplomatic channels. It also issued an even-toned message that raised hopes the original meeting could take place. Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea's vice-foreign minister, said in state media: "We have inwardly highly appreciated President Trump for having made the bold decision, which any other US president dared not, and made efforts for such a crucial event as the summit.

"We even inwardly hoped that what is called the 'Trump formula' would help clear both sides of their worries and comply with the requirements of our side and would be a wise way of substantial effect for settling the issue.

"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."

Mr Trump welcomed the comments, 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!"

Asked later about the summit, Mr Trump said: "We'll see what happens.

"It could even be the 12th. We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it."

The US and North Korea still appear far apart in what they want out of the meeting. The Trump administration has insisted on denuclearisation before any economic sanctions are lifted.

But North Korea has rejected calls for it to "unilaterally" denuclearise and appears to favour a tit-for-tat approach of sanctions being lifted alongside any curbing of its nuclear programme.

However, North Korea released images and video footage of what it said was the demolition of its Punggye-ri nuclear test site yesterday, a move intended to show its good intentions.

US regional allies Japan and South Korea, as well as North Korea's main ally, China, urged the two countries to salvage the summit yesterday.

China, which Mr Trump has blamed for Mr Kim's more critical tone on talks in recent weeks, urged both America and North Korea to "show goodwill".

Lu Kang, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said: "The recent easing situation on the peninsula is hard won, the political settlement process is faced with a rare historic opportunity.

"We believe as the parties directly engaged on the issue, the summit of North Korea and US can play a crucial role for promoting the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

"We hope both North Korea and the US can cherish the recent positive progress, stay patient, show goodwill [and] move in the same direction."

At an economic forum in St Petersburg, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan said it was necessary to ensure security on the Korean peninsula, which touched on China's core interests. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the same forum, regretted the cancellation and said the world should keep doing its bit to make the summit happen.

South Korea also would continue efforts to improve ties with the North, the office of President Moon Jae-in said after his top security advisers met for the second time yesterday.

Some analysts worried that cancelling the summit could prompt a resumption in hostilities, including renewed shorter-range missile tests or stepped-up cyber attacks by Pyongyang and increased sanctions or deployment of new military assets by Washington. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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