International desk, May 24: US President Donald Trump has cancelled a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying the world had “lost a great opportunity for lasting peace”.He said his decision was because of “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent North Korean statement.
The summit aimed to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and would have been the first time a sitting US president met a North Korean leader.
But both sides recently cast doubt on whether the talks would happen.
Mr Trump’s announcement came just hours after North Korea said it had dismantled tunnels at its only nuclear test site in a move witnessed by foreign reporters.
In a letter sent to Kim on Thursday, Trump said the summit – which had been scheduled for June 12 in Singapore – would no longer be possible “based on the tremendous anger and open hostility” shown by Pyongyang in its most recent statements.
“The world and North Korea has lost a tremendous opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth,” Trump wrote. “This missed opportunity is truly a sad moment in history.”
The meeting would have been the first time a sitting US president met a North Korean leader.
“I was very much looking forward to being there with you,” Trump said in the letter.
“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.
“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,” said Trump.
There was no immediate response from North Korea.
A statement earlier on Thursday from Pyongyang referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy”, and said it is just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table with the United States.
‘Don’t hesitate to call’
Trump did say, however, he would be open to a possible meeting in the future.
“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do hot hesitate to call me or write,” he said.
Trump had called on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programme and arsenal ahead of the summit.
North Korea, which reportedly demolished its Punggye-ri nuclear test site earlier on Thursday, had threatened to pull out of the Singapore summit if the US continued to demand it gives up its nuclear arsenal unilaterally.
Mark Fitzpatrick from the International Institute for Strategic Studies told Al Jazeera the tone of Trump’s letter bodes ill for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
“The way that Trump did this in a letter that threatens North Korea with nuclear annihilation is probably not the right signal to send,” said Fitzpatrick.
“I don’t think North Korea is going to respond so well to that kind of a threat. North Korea is going to feel betrayed by this, North Korea will react negatively.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a Senate committee later on Thursday the White House had “tried repeatedly” to connect with North Korea in recent days over plans for the Singapore summit, but received no response.
Will not ‘beg’
Earlier this month Pyongyang said ongoing US-South Korea war games off the peninsula were not conducive to peace talks and demanded the manoeuvres be cancelled. The US balked at that demand.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said on Thursday her country “will neither beg the US for dialogue, nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us”.
“Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room, or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States,” said Choe.
A spokesperson for Moon’s office said on Thursday that South Korea was trying to understand the reason for Trump’s abrupt cancellation.
Moon convened an emergency meeting with top security officials after Trump’s cancellation.
Andrei Lankov, an expert at South Korea’s Kookmin University, told Al Jazeera from Seoul that Trump’s announcement was “shocking and highly dangerous”.
“There is now again a looming and reasonably high threat of a major military confrontation in Korea,” Lankov said.
Despite Trump and Moon’s recent summit, it appears the US side “had not bothered to inform the South Koreans about a possible cancellation”.
“The sad truth is South Korea cannot do much [about this], the best hope for them will be to save their train of diplomacy, which has been suddenly derailed,” Lankov said.
Hazel Smith, a professor at the University of London, said comments by Trump administration officials such as National Security Adviser John Bolton and Pence in recent days about a “Libya model” for North Korea likely made Pyongyang nervous.
Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi gave up his nuclear arsenal in negotiations with the West, but he was later overthrown and killed after a NATO air intervention that supported rebels on the ground.
“For North Korea, this [Libya model] simply means the overthrow of the government as Gaddafi was overthrown,” said Smith.