US says it could walk away from June 12 N. Korea summit in S'pore

Officials left in doubt but continue making plans for landmark meeting

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday there was a "substantial chance" his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will not take place as planned on June 12 amid concerns that Kim is not committed to denuclearisation.
United States President Donald Trump (left) flagged the possibility there would be no summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un if certain conditions were not met.
United States President Donald Trump (left) flagged the possibility there would be no summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un if certain conditions were not met. PHOTO: AFP

United States President Donald Trump has cast doubt on his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying that while it is on track, it could be delayed past the planned June 12 date.

Speaking to reporters at a White House meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae In on Tuesday, Mr Trump said he believed Pyongyang was serious about denuclearisation. But he flagged the possibility there would be no summit if certain conditions were not met.

"There is a very substantial chance that it won't work out, and that is okay... It may not work out for June 12. But there is a good chance we will have the meeting," he said.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has met Mr Kim twice recently, told a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that "a bad deal is not an option".

"The American people are counting on us to get this right. If the right deal is not on the table, we will respectfully walk away," he said.

Their comments have left officials and others wondering if the Singapore summit is going ahead, might be off or likely to be postponed.

Meanwhile, US and Singapore officials and media continue preparing for a June 12 summit, including pinning down venues for accommodation and the meeting.

Several hotels, including the Shangri-La Hotel and Marina Bay Sands, have begun taking back allocated rooms from travel agents in anticipation of demand.

Singapore officials have also been busy working on security and logistics plans, conscious that a postponement could see these put on hold.

But Dr Sue Mi Terry, senior fellow and Korea chair at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, believes the summit will happen "because Mr Trump is so invested in it, although there is a chance it might be postponed".

"He may not mind a heightening of the drama... to increase public interest and, of course, ratings. But I do think Mr Trump has figured out that it is important to lower expectations, after having raised them before, so as to be able to sell whatever comes out of the summit to his supporters," she told The Straits Times.

Mr Trump had also appeared suspicious of China's role, saying Mr Kim appeared to have had a "little change in attitude" since meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping for a second time in just weeks.

"I don't like that," he said. "I have a great relationship with President Xi, he is a friend, but there was a difference when Kim Jong Un left China the second time."

China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday Beijing had played a positive role on the Korean peninsula and hoped the summit will proceed smoothly and achieve results. Said spokesman Lu Kang: "China has always supported and encouraged direct dialogue between the US and North Korea to build mutual trust and reach a political settlement on denuclearisation of the peninsula."

Mr Trump reiterated that he would guarantee Mr Kim's security if he agreed to denuclearise. "He will be safe, he will be happy, his country will be rich," he said. "South Korea, China and Japan - they will be willing to help and I believe invest very, very large sums of money into helping to make North Korea great."

The Dow Jones index dropped 200 points after Mr Trump's remarks cast doubt on the summit.

Meanwhile, North Korea is going ahead with dismantling its remote Punggye-ri nuclear test site, allowing select journalists to witness it.

Said Mr Trump on working with Pyongyang: "It has been a relationship that seems to be working. We will see how long it continues to work."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2018, with the headline 'US says it could walk away from June 12 N. Korea summit in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe