After canceling the planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday, President Trump held out the possibility of a later meeting.
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“A lot of things can happen, including the fact that perhaps – and would wait – it’s possible that the existing summit could take place or a summit at some later date,” Trump said during an address at the White House late Thursday morning, adding that the U.S. military is “ready if necessary” to respond to “any foolish or reckless act” by Pyongyang.
Trump canceled the summit scheduled for June 12 – which would have marked the first time the two leaders met in person – in Singapore earlier Thursday, citing recent threats from the North Korean leader.
“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.
The decision came as North Korea reportedly blew up tunnels used for nuclear testing on Thursday, following through on an earlier promise to denuclearize and lower tensions on the Korean peninsula.
“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 in the letter.
Despite original optimism that the summit would occur, threats of cancellation grew over the course of the past few days. Hours before Trump’s decision on Thursday, North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui issued a statement slamming Vice President Mike Pence over comments he made Monday, and threatened to cancel the meeting. Pence said the North Korean government could end up like Libya if Kim didn’t make a deal on nuclear weapons.
While meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House on Tuesday, Trump was skeptical about the summit, telling reporters there was a “substantial” chance it wouldn’t happen. Last week, the Hermit Kingdom suspended talks with South Korea last week after the latter country conducted a military exercise with the U.S.
Lawmakers in Washington reacted to the president’s decision, with Republicans praising Trump for stepping away.
“The North Korean regime has long given ample reason to question its commitment to stability,” House Speaker Paul 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.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., slammed the North Korean leader in a tweet on Thursday and said the withdrawal was “100% the right decision.”
“Kim Jun Un, in the words of a wise man “Congratulations, you just played yourself”. Withdrawing from talks with #NKorea is 100% the right decision. #KJU doesn’t want a deal. He has deliberately sabotaged the talks over the last two weeks & was setting us up to take the blame,” Rubio said.
Meanwhile, leaders on the other side of the aisle criticized Trump for backing out of the planned summit.
“The art of diplomacy is a lot harder than the art of the deal,” Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said during a weekly press conference on Thursday that Kim Jong Un “must be having a giggle fit” and that he emerged the “big winner” after Trump announced he pulled the U.S. out of the summit, while describing the president’s letter as “kind of like a valentine.”
The previously scheduled meeting was agreed upon in early March after Kim said his country would stop nuclear tests and being work on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear program.