President Trump – who wrote in his memoir, “Know when to walk away from the table” – has cancelled a meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un over that country’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program.
- “I’ve spoken to Gen. Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere in the world, that has been greatly enhanced recently, as you all know, is ready if necessary,” Trump said Thursday from the White House. “Likewise, I have spoken to South Korea and Japan and they are not only ready should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea, but they are willing to shoulder much of the cost of any financial burden, any of the costs associated by the United States in operations if such an unfortunate situation is forced upon us.”
- Trump’s decision comes after escalating verbal exchanges between U.S. and North Korean government officials. Most recently, North Korean vice-foreign minister Choe Son Hui reportedly called Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” for suggesting that Kim could meet the same fate of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi if he refused to give up his nuclear weapons.
- In a letter Thursday to Kim, the president said it was “inappropriate” for the two leaders to meet given the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in North Korea’s recent statement.
- “Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place,” Trump wrote. “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 left the door open for a future meeting and thanked Kim for releasing U.S. hostages recently. “The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth,” the president wrote. “This missed opportunity is truly a sad moment in history.”
- Two Medal of Honor recipients from the Korean War told Task & Purpose earlier this year that Trump should be careful not to be manipulated by Kim. “If I were the president, I wouldn’t bend one bit to agree with that varmint,” Army veteran Ronald Rosser said in March. “I’d tell him, ‘You got to stop doing that stuff.’”
- Fellow Korean War hero Hiroshi Miyamura said that Trump should not agree to a deal that would include removing all U.S. troops from South Korea, but he felt Trump made the right move by initially agreeing to meet Kim. “When you get a madman in control of something like that, you don’t know what he might decide he wants to blow someone up,” Miyamura told Task & Purpose. “It’s hard to let him have that power over the world.”
- It’s unclear what will happen now to the 250 Trump-Kim summit challenge coins the White House Communications Agency began distributing earlier this week, or to the many pro-administration pundits who have argued in recent months that Trump should “normalize” Kim in the community of nations.
- The South Korean government appears not to have been consulted in Trump’s decision:
South Korea's presidential Blue House seems blind-sided by Trump's cancelation of the summit: "We are attempting to make sense of what, precisely, President Trump means," says spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) May 24, 2018
UPDATE: This story was updated on May 24 with President Trump’s comments from the White House.