Yesterday (May 24), US president Donald Trump called off a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that was set to take place in Singapore on June 12. Leaders around the world reacted mostly with dismay, though Trump found support among his allies.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who called a late night emergency meeting with his security advisers shortly after Trump made his decision public, said he was “very perplexed” by the decision, and that it was “very regrettable.” Moon reportedly was not given notice (paywall) in advance of Trump’s decision.
In a long letter, North Korea’s vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump’s announcement “not consistent with the desire of humankind for peace and stability in the world.”
French president Emmanuel Macron and Russian president Vladimir Putin, speaking at a meeting in Saint Petersburg, both expressed regret that the meeting had been called off.
“Kim Jong Un, on his side, did everything he promised,” said Putin. “He even blew up tunnels and mines on his test ranges but after that we heard that the USA had cancelled the meeting,” referring to the destruction of tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site carried out just hours before Trump’s announcement. Macron added that he hoped the cancellation “was just a glitch in a process that should be continued.”
A spokeswoman for British prime minister Theresa May said, “We are disappointed that the meeting will no longer go ahead as planned. We need to see an agreement that can bring about the completely verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and we will continue to work with our partners to this end.”
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” and encouraged both sides to “find a path to the peaceful and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
At a regular news briefing on today (May 25), Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told reporters the US and North Korea “should show patience and meet each other halfway,” according to Reuters.
Japan, a close US ally which looked to be on the back foot (paywall) during the diplomatic process of the last few months, was more muted in its response. Analysts have said that the Shinzo Abe administration was worried that Trump would offer Kim a deal that stops short of complete denuclearization, at the expense of Japan’s national security.
“The important thing is not the US-North Korea meeting itself, but that the meeting becomes an opportunity to move forward in the issues of denuclearization and abductions,” defense minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Tokyo, referring to the longstanding issue of the abduction by Pyongyang of Japanese citizens since the 1970s. Foreign minister Taro Kono, on a visit to Mexico, told the press, “It is meaningless to hold a summit if it does not bring about progress.”
In the US, members of the Republican party rallied behind Trump’s decision, such as senator Marco Rubio:
“I think [Trump] did the right thing,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said.
House of Representatives Democrat Eric Swalwell, however, called the meeting’s cancellation “unfortunate,” but the strongest reaction in the opposition came from House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who called Trump’s engagement with North Korea “a good thing for Kim Jong Un.”
“Here you had a thug, a person who killed his own family members, a person who runs a police state, being legitimized by the president of United States,” Pelosi said. “When he got this letter from the president saying ‘Okay, never mind,’ he must be having a giggle fit.”
This post has been updated with comments from China’s foreign ministry.