After days of uncertainty about a planned June 12 summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump on Thursday told Kim in a letter that because of hostile statements from the Pyongyang regime in recent days, the summit in Singapore would not take place.
"Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is in appropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting," the President wrote in his letter to Kim.
The decision came as North Korean officials seemed to back away from public assurances that they would give up on their nuclear weapons program, which had been Mr. Trump's demand from the start - as the President delivered a clear warning to Kim about a possible conflict.
In both his letter to Kim Jong Un, and his statement at the White House, the President said the U.S. military was ready to deal with any new threats from North Korean military forces.
"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," Mr. Trump wrote.
Here is the President's letter to Kim Jong Un.
In the letter, Mr. Trump did not foreclose the possibility of meeting with Kim, but the move represented a major foreign policy setback for the President, who had made the case that his diplomatic efforts had brought dramatic changes to future U.S.-North Korean relations.
At a previously scheduled hearing on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo read the letter to Senators, and immediately faced criticism from some Democrats.
"The cancellation of this summit reveals the lack of preparation on the part of President Trump in dealing with a totalitarian dictator like Kim Jong Un," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).
"“To make matters worse, the President’s bizarre letter returns to the same bellicose rhetoric that last year heightened tensions and raised the specter of war," said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY).
"The art of diplomacy is a lot harder than the art of the deal," said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
In a back-and-forth with Menendez at a previously scheduled hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Pompeo defended U.S. preparation for the North Korean summit, blaming the failure on the Pyongyang regime, as Pompeo said in the last week, their North Korean counterparts had simply stopped communicating with the U.S.
"I regret the statements the North Koreans have made over the last few days," Pompeo said, telling Senators he had made clear that the U.S. expected Kim to agree to a complete dismantling of the North Korean nuclear weapons program.
Asked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) if the White House had told South Korea and Japan in advance of the decision to cancel the summit, Pompeo did not give a direct answer, as he kept the focus - and blame - on Kim Jong Un.
"In some ways, it is situation normal," Pompeo said in a somewhat resigned voice. "The pressure campaign continues."
"Not a lot of insight there," Shaheen replied.
Republicans on Capitol Hill stood by the President, blaming North Korea for backing off a pledge to walk away from their nuclear program.
"I 100% support the President’s decision," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). "For two weeks now, North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un has been trying to sabotage the summit and set the United States up to take the blame."
"Kim Jong Un is a murderous despot and habitual liar," said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE). "The President made the right call to cancel this summit."
"I think Kim Jong Un has walked away from a historic opportunity for peace," said Sen. Corey Gardner (R-CO), "and should be held accountable for his decision."
On Capitol Hill, Pompeo said there was still hope things would change in the future, but for now, the North Koreans remain a threat.
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