Asia

After Trump cancels summit, N Korea says it will still talk with US ‘any time and in any way’

Kim Kye Gwan, a top official at North Korea's Foreign Ministry, said in comments published Friday by the country's state-run news agency KCNA that Trump's decision runs counter to the global community's wishes for peace on the Korean Peninsula."We reiterate to the US that we are willing to sit face to face at any time and in any way," said Kim, who has negotiated with US counterparts for years. "I would like to conclude that President Trump's statement on the North Korea-US summit is a decision that is not in line with the wishes of the who hope for the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula as well as the world."President Trump canceled the summit Thursday in a letter addressed to Kim Jong Un, citing recent hostile comments from top North Korean officials and concern over Pyongyang's willingness to give up its nuclear weapons. Trump said it would be "inappropriate" to have the summit given his worries.The final straw, US officials said, was a Thursday statement from North Korea's Foreign Ministry calling US Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy" and hinting that Pyongyang was ready for a "nuclear showdown" if diplomacy should fail.

'Brave decision'

Despite the abrupt cancellation, North Korea and the US appeared to leave the door open for talks to resume at some point."Our goal and will to do everything for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the mankind remains unchanged, and we are willing to give time and opportunity to the US, always with a big and open mind," Kim Kye Gwansaid. Likewise, Trump said at the White House Thursday "if and when Kim Jong Un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting." Kim Kye Gwan said in his statement that North Korea "highly appreciated the fact that President Trump made a brave decision that no president in the past has made and put efforts to make the summit happen.""However, the sudden unilateral cancellation of the summit was an unexpected happening to us and we cannot help but feel very regretful."Analysts said the response was measured, by North Korean standards."It can be quickly seen as this is a typical charm offensive, but it's not a stupid strategy … you can speak kindly now and carry the big stick for later," said George Lopez, a professor at the University of Notre Dame and former member of the United Nations Panel of Experts on North Korea.

Nuclear sites 'destroyed'

Trump canceled the talks just hours after North Korea detonated explosives at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country's north. International journalists, including a crew from CNN, watched as a series of explosions appeared to destroy three of four tunnels at the site — the North Koreans said the fourth tunnel, used for the country's first nuclear test in 2006, had already been destroyed.There were no nuclear or nonproliferation experts on the trip.It took 15 hours to travel to the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea's remote northeast. The CNN team spent about nine hours at the site. They were briefed by the deputy director of North Korea's nuclear weapons institute — who declined to give his name to the visiting journalists — and allowed to inspect the tunnels."The dismantling of the nuclear test ground conducted with high level of transparency has clearly attested once again to the proactive and peace-loving efforts of the government of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)," the official from North Korea's nuclear weapons institute said.

High hopes

Hopes had been high for a historic summit between the two leaders after Trump unexpectedly accepted an offer from Kim for face-to-face talks in early March.It would have been the first encounter between a sitting US President and North Korean leader but plans began to unravel after North Korea objected to joint US-South Korean military drills and comments from senior members of the Trump administration.Some analysts believe that Pyongyang's recent provocative language wasn't meant to push Washington to cancel the meeting, but rather to voice their displeasure after Vice President Pence and National Security Adviser John Bolton brought up the case of Libya when discussing North Korea. Former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to give up his nuclear weapons but was less than a decade later was ousted from power and killed with the help of NATO-backed forces.North Korea has long cited Libya as an example to show why they need nuclear weapons to deter the United States."They were trying to signal to Washington that they were very displeased about all this talk about Libya, which is obviously a nightmare scenario for North Korea, said Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former CIA analyst. "I think that message didn't come across to Washington … the North Koreans were trying to send a signal and something was lost in translation."Both US and North Korea have refrained from insulting the leader of each country, a remarkable departure from 2017 when Trump called Kim "little rocket man" and a "sick puppy" and North Korean state media referred to the US President as a "dotard" and a "lunatic."In his Friday statement, Kim Kye Gwan said the "disgraceful" state of relations between the two countries showed how badly the summit was needed."Our Chairman said if he meets President Trump, he could have a good start and made every effort to prepare for this," Kim said. He said the US administration's "unilateral cancellation" of the summit was making Pyongyang "think again" about its recent efforts and whether "this path that we newly chose is right."

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