Trump Leaves Future of North Korean Summit in Kim Jong-un's Hands

May 24, 2018

By Alisha Haridasani

Though President Trump abruptly canceled his planned meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, there's still a possibility the highly-anticipated summit could take place in the future, if the two sides can tamp down their antagonism and agree to a framework for denuclearization, analysts said.

In a letter Thursday to the North Korean leader, Trump said, “it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.” The summit was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore.

"The North Koreans have two choices: They can either choose to overreact and perhaps engage in a heated rhetorical exchange with President Trump in the future," said Lisa Collins, a fellow at the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Or they can play it cool and engage with the Trump administration in back-channel communications."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a crucial player in setting up the summit, was taken by surprise, describing the abrupt turn of events as “very regretful and disconcerting.”

Trump's letter was sent just hours after North Korea threatened to scuttle the meeting, and several antagonistic comments by Kim, which may have prompted the president to get ahead of the devolving diplomatic situation.

North Korea's threats were inspired, in part, by Vice President Mike Pence’s comments on Fox News on Monday where he warned that if the country doesn’t agree to denuclearization, it would meet the same fate as Libya.

Pence was referring to the case of the former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was captured and killed by rebels in 2011 during the Arab Spring. The country had given up its nuclear arsenal in 2003, and the United States helped rebel groups topple him eight years later.

The comments alarmed Kim, who has made clear he would not agree to any sort of regime changes.

“North Korea, on its own side, has referred to denuclearization as a process by which the U.S. first guarantees its security,” Collins said in an interview with Cheddar.

Trump’s letter was a mix of praise for Kim and forceful language. He thanked North Korea for releasing American hostages and reminded Kim that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is “so massive and powerful.”

Trump did, however, keep the door open for a future summit.

“There’s still room for them to agree to have a meeting in the future, it just depends on whether can narrow their difference,” Collins said.

For the full interview, click here.