China urges US, North Korea to show patience, goodwill

South Korean President Moon Jae In (centre) at an emergency national security meeting at Seoul’s presidential Blue House yesterday. He had called the session after the earlier US announcement that the summit had been cancelled. But last night, Mr T
South Korean President Moon Jae In (centre) at an emergency national security meeting at Seoul’s presidential Blue House yesterday. He had called the session after the earlier US announcement that the summit had been cancelled. But last night, Mr Trump held out hope that the summit could go on as planned. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tokyo, Seoul hope for talks to go on; Putin points out US unreliability

In the light of the uncertainty of the summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, China has urged the two countries to exercise patience and be prepared to meet each other halfway.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said yesterday: "The recent easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula is hard won, and the political settlement process is faced with a rare historic opportunity."

He added: "Under the current situation, we very much hope that both North Korea and the US can cherish the positive progress made during this period of time, maintain patience, exchange goodwill and meet each other halfway."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin, said yesterday that efforts for a US-North Korea summit should continue.

South Korean President Moon Jae In, apparently blind-sided by Mr Trump's announcement, said earlier yesterday that he was "very perplexed and sorry" that the summit was cancelled. Denuclearising the Korean peninsula and ensuring a permanent peace, he added, were "historic tasks that cannot be delayed or forsaken".

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed in a phone conversation to "continue working towards creating the right conditions for the United States and North Korea to talk", a statement in Seoul said yesterday.

The South's Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon said Seoul would press ahead with improving ties with Pyongyang.


A protester with a banner saying “Trump jeopardises peace on the Korean peninsula” at a rally in front of the US Embassy in Seoul yesterday, after US President Donald Trump’s decision to call off the summit with North Korea. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

On Thursday, Mr Trump pulled out of what would have been the first meeting between a serving US president and a North Korean leader - set for June 12 in Singapore. He said the meeting was inappropriate, given the North's "tremendous anger and open hostility".

But Pyongyang, in its response, struck a conciliatory tone yesterday, with North Korean First Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan saying that it was willing to sit down with the US "at any time, in any way, to resolve the problems".

Last night, Mr Trump renewed hope of the summit proceeding as originally planned, saying that the two sides are talking, and June 12 is still a possibility.

Partly because their initial involvement was minimal, but also because they remained keen to protect a separate nuclear deal with Iran from any potential diplomatic fallout, European leaders had reacted cautiously to the earlier news of the cancellation of the summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.

Mr Putin, however, seized the opportunity to rebuke the US for its alleged unreliability.

"Kim Jong Un, on his side, did everything he promised," Mr Putin said at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in St Petersburg.

"He even blew up tunnels and mines on his test ranges, but after that, we heard that the US had cancelled the meeting."

But Mr Macron tried to minimise the potential rift with Washington by calling for renewed efforts to limit North Korea's nuclear programme.

"France is completely disposed to help," he said. "I think it is for the entire international community... and the United Nations has a particular role to play to work on it."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not commented on the latest developments.

In Australia, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed disappointment, warning that a solution to the North Korean missile crisis would involve a "long-drawn-out diplomatic process".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply concerned" and urged the US and North Korea to continue dialogue.

• Additional reporting by Goh Sui Noi in Beijing, Jonathan Eyal in London and Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2018, with the headline 'China urges US, N. Korea to show patience, goodwill'. Print Edition | Subscribe