President Donald Trump has canceled his historic summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month.
The meeting, which would have marked the first face-to-face encounter between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was set for June 12.
“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,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim, which was released Thursday morning.
Stocks fell after news of the cancellation broke.
Much of the letter was written in seemingly friendly terms, including praise for North Korea’s recent release of three American prisoners, Trump also appeared to issue a threat that conjured memories of his war of words with Kim last year.
“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,” Trump wrote.
The news came as North Korea made a show of dismantling a nuclear test site, but also on the heels of some sharp words from the North Korean government about America denuclearization demands. Trump’s decision also comes more than two weeks after he withdrew the U.S. from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, which lifted sanctions on the Middle Eastern country as long as it limited its nuclear program.
Doubts had grown in recent days about whether Trump’s summit with Kim would actually happen. North Korea abruptly canceled talks with South Korea out of anger over joint military tests with the U.S. in the Korean peninsula. While Trump had repeatedly played up the historic significance of the meeting, he also often leavened his optimism with a cautious “we’ll see.”
On Tuesday, Trump said there was a “substantial” chance that the meeting might not take place at the planned time and location.
Thursday’s development marked yet another dramatic, sudden turnaround in the Trump-Kim saga. Without many details or diplomatic ties established, the president agreed to a summit March 8, when South Korean officials told Trump about Kim’s eagerness to meet.
Earlier Thursday, a top North Korean official, Choe Son Hui, called Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks likening Pyongyang with Libya “ignorant” and “stupid.”
Pence had said North Korea could end up like Libya if it doesn’t make a nuclear deal with Washington.
“As a person involved in U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” Choe said, according to KCNA.
The vice president’s comments also echoed those of Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, who had suggested the U.S. could pursue a Libya-style denuclearization plan with North Korea. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was eventually violently overthrown, a move the U.S. supported. North Korea’s Kim is concerned about regime change.
Trump’s move Thursday earned quick praise from Republican lawmakers. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a tweet that the president’s move was “100% the right decision.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan also weighed in, but in more measured tones.
“The North Korean regime has long given ample reason to question its commitment to stability,” Ryan said in a statement. “We must continue to work with our allies toward a peaceful resolution, but that will require a much greater degree of seriousness from the Kim regime.”
Trump’s critics also seized on the news, but as a way to hammer the White House.
“The art of diplomacy is a lot harder than the art of the deal. The reality is, is that it’s pretty amazing that the administration might be shocked that North Korea is acting as North Korea might very well normally act.” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said in a hearing involving the new secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
While he was still CIA director, Pompeo met with Kim over Easter weekend to establish diplomatic ties and work toward setting up the summit. Pompeo had also secured the release of the three American prisoners released by North Korea earlier this month.
There were no immediate details about how the administration would continue to pursue diplomacy with North Korea, which is the only nation to conduct nuclear-weapons tests this century. Yet Trump left the door open for arranging a new meeting with Kim.
“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write,” the president wrote. “This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.”