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Friday, May 25, 2018

Trump cancels the summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore

Por Nina

Donald Trump is not going to make history with North Korea, at least for the moment: "The meeting in Singapore will not take place." The US president has transmitted by letter to Kim Jong-un the cancellation on his part of the interview that both parties had set for June 12 in the small Asian country. The dissemination of the letter comes just 24 hours after the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, kept before the Senate that the meeting was held as scheduled and that sources of the White House ensure that a US delegation was prepared to travel this weekend to Pyongyang, in order to start the preparations for the interview.

The decision, communicated in a letter to Kim, comes after days of speculation about whether the meeting would be held after the criticism launched by Pyongyang against Washington and the threats that Kim could not show up for the appointment, which would deal with the nuclear program of the impoverished Asian country. Faced with the risk of a huge diplomatic failure, Trump has chosen to back down and blame North Korea. "I was very interested in being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility reflected in his recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to celebrate this long-planned meeting," Trump writes in the letter to Kim. The US president alleges that a "precious dialogue" was being built and leaves the door open to hold the meeting in the future, if the North Korean leader "changes his mind" about the need to enter into a negotiation.

But at the same time, in a timid return to the belligerent rhetoric of a few months ago, he warns that the nuclear capacity of the United States is "massive and powerful". Washington warned that, if the negotiations failed, it would maintain its campaign of maximum pressure on Pyongyang through economic sanctions and threat of military actions. "The world and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is truly a sad moment in history," says Trump. The letter was released a few hours after the Kim regime claimed to have "completely demolished" its nuclear test center in Punggye-ri, in the north of the country, in what it considered a gesture of goodwill before the summit with Trump.

Last week, Pyongyang already threatened to cancel the summit, the first in history between the two countries, due to what it saw as White House pressures to impose a "unilateral" denuclearization model, and Trump acknowledged on Tuesday its possible delay. But on Thursday, the criticisms of Kim's government against Trump's have also intensified again. North Korea's deputy foreign minister, Choe Son-hui, again questioned the Singapore meeting by calling it "ignorant and stupid" statements made by US Vice President Mike Pence, who warned on Monday that if it did not reach an agreement with the United States, Kim's government could end up like that of the deposed - and deceased - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. In a totally unexpected way, Trump agreed on March 8 to meet with Kim. At a meeting in the Oval Office, South Korea's national security adviser, Chung Eui-Yong, told Trump about the "enthusiasm" of Kim, who had parked his nuclear tests, to meet with him "as soon as possible." The American president gave his approval.

Then a race to prepare for the appointment was activated. Mike Pompeo, first as director of the CIA and later as Secretary of State, traveled twice to Pyongyang to meet with Kim and close the details of the meeting with Trump. After his second trip, he returned to the US on May 9 with three Americans who were imprisoned in North Korea and were released by the Kim regime as a sign of goodwill. The next day, Trump announced that the meeting with Kim would be held on June 12 in Singapore. Everything seemed to move at cruising speed. Surprisingly, two countries, which until a few months ago threatened each other and whose negotiations had always failed, seemed to be approaching an agreement on Pyongyang's nuclear program. Everything changed on May 16. Suddenly, North Korea canceled a meeting with emissaries from South Korea (on April 26, Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in) and threatened to do the same with the appointment with Trump if the US insisted in a "unilateral nuclear abandonment". Pyongyang also criticized a planned joint military exercise between the US and South Korea.

The appointment between Kim and Trump would have been the first between the leaders of the United States and North Korea after almost 70 years of confrontation initiated with the Korean War (1950-1953) and more than a quarter of a century of failed negotiations. With the summit abandoned, at least temporarily, the following steps are not clear. Trump said earlier that if the June 12 meeting failed, the US he would continue to exert maximum economic pressure on Kim and his regime. The highly anticipated summit was proposed by the White House as an opportunity to avoid a military conflict with North Korea and show Trump's ability to advance where his predecessors had struggled.