Donald Trump cancels North Korea talks; set back for personal diplomacy

May 25, 2018, 00:52 IST | IANS

Hours before Trump's dramatic announcement, North Korea destroyed the site where it had conducted six nuclear tests in Punggye-ri

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The United States President Donald Trump's cancellation of his talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a set back to his personal diplomacy and to the denuclearization process in East Asia, even as Pyongyang showed it was destroying its nuclear test site.

Hours before Trump's dramatic announcement, North Korea destroyed the site where it had conducted six nuclear tests in Punggye-ri.

In his letter to Kim that was released by the White House, Trump said the "tremendous anger and open hostility" in a recent North Korean statement as the reason for cancelling the meeting scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

He was apparently referring to a statement by North Korea's vice-foreign minister Choe Son Hui circulated by Pyongyang's official news service, KCNA, in which she said: "We can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now."

Trump responded in his letter to Kim: "You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God that they will never have to be used."

The meeting may have been sabotaged by Trump's newly appointed National Security Adviser John Bolton, an extreme hardliner known for his intemperate rhetoric, who proposed a "Libyan model" for dealing with North Korea - which upset the Pyongyang leadership that sensed a possible betrayal.

The planned meeting was also beset by uncertainties from the North Korea side.

Pyogyang threatened earlier this month to pull out of the talks if the US and North Korea went ahead with their joint military exercise, Max Thunder, which took place anyway.

There is also a China factor that Trump had been alluding to.

When North Korea threatened to call off the talks because of the military exercise, Trump alluded to Beijing's influence saying: "If you remember two weeks ago, all of a sudden out of nowhere Kim Jong Un went to China to say hello again - second time - to President Xi."

As Pyongyang's key ally, Beijing can influence Kim and Trump had earlier, in fact, welcomed a meeting between Xi and Kim in March that appeared to set the stage for the Trump summit.

Trump's decision to pull out of the nuclear agreement with Iran also strained his credibility with Pyongyang.

A historic meeting with Kim and an agreement on denuclearization of North Korea would have boosted Trump's mangled standing both at home and abroad, and, therefore, the cancellation is a personal setback to him and his unorthodox style of conducting international affairs.

Despite resuming talk of nuclear weapons, Trump kept lines of communication open by keeping a civil tone in his letter to Kim, whom he had once derided as "little rocket man".

"I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and, ultimately, it is only the dialogue that matters," Trump said.

He added that the meeting "for the good of both parties and to the detriment of the world will not take place".

He also thanked Kim for releasing three American prisoners.

Bolton had said that "we have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004" in dealing with North Korea.

Vice President Mike Pence amplified it by saying that "if Kim Jong Un does not make a deal" he could end up in a Libyan scenario.

Muammar Gaddafi shutdown his nuclear programme and handed over some elements of it to the US, but was overthrown in 2011 after US and its European allies attacked Libya and killed

Trump disowned Bolton's statement declaring, "the Libya model is not the model that we have at all when we're thinking of North Korea."

But that did not mollify the North Koreans.

In her statement, Choe called Pence a "political dummy" and said: "As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president."

Preparing for the planned summit, Trump had held consultations with leaders around the world, including Xi, and met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House this week.

Despite destroying its nuclear test facilities, North Korea maintains a nuclear arsenal -- developed with Pakistan's help -- and a powerful missile system capable of reaching the US.

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