North Korea's explosive, "peace-loving" gesture of dismantling its nuclear site

Friday, 25 May, 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called an emergency meeting of his advisers in Seoul near midnight local time, to discuss President Trump's decision to cancel his summit with Kim Jong Un.

The statement from Pyongyang appeared created to get the summit back on track after Trump canceled their planned Singapore meeting, citing "tremendous anger and open hostility" in recent statements from North Korea.

South Korea maintained an optimistic tone on Friday, referring to the North's conciliatory reaction to Trump's announcement and its hope the summit could take place later.

President Donald Trump on Friday warmly welcomed North Korea's promising response to his abrupt withdrawal from the potentially historic Singapore summit and said "we're talking to them now" about putting it back on track.

"We even inwardly hoped that what is called "Trump formula" would help clear both sides of their worries and comply with the requirements of our side and would be a wise way of substantial effect for settling the issue", he said, without elaborating.

North Korea has sharply criticized suggestions by Trump's national security adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence that it could share the fate of Libya if it did not swiftly surrender its nuclear arsenal. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and murdered by NATO-backed militants after halting his nascent nuclear program. "Our president should be commended for insisting that North Korea has benefits available to it and concessions that the USA can make, but none of it starts until North Korea transparently dismantles its nuclear weapons program". White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also said: "This is the President Trump model. He's going to run this the way he sees fit".

North Korea's measured response provided some solace for nervous financial markets, with Asian shares nearly flat.

"I suspect they couldn't agree on denuclearisation", said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management. "So I do not expect to see an immediate escalation in military tension". The North Koreans didn't tell us anything.

Before Trump scrapped the meeting on Thursday, North Korea said it had completely dismantled its Punggye-ri nuclear test facility "to ensure the transparency of discontinuance" of nuclear testing. Tracy and his team were shown how explosives were strung up inside the entrance to the tunnel.

The decision blindsided treaty ally South Korea, which until now had brokered a remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang.

The president, commenting as he left the White House for a commencement speech, said it was even possible the summit could take place on the originally planned June 12 date.

USA regional allies Japan and South Korea, as well as North Korea's main ally, China, urged the two countries to salvage the summit on Friday.

A senior White House official said Pyongyang had demonstrated a "profound lack of good faith" in the run-up to the summit - including standing up the White House's deputy chief of staff, who had travelled to Singapore for preparatory talks. Moon later brokered the canceled summit between Kim and Trump.

"So, this unusual lack of judgment, combined with the broken promises over the past weeks, and North Korea's suspension of direct communication with the United States, suggests a profound lack of faith", the official said.

Trump's decision underscores the delicacy of Seoul's intermediary status but also the credibility problems Moon faces over his claim that Kim is genuinely interested in negotiating away his nuclear weapons. In his official letter, Trump wrote that "The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth".

"After 65 years some maneuvering is to be expected, but all parties need to keep in contact and work toward the same goals", the China Daily said in an editorial.