North Korea said it was surprised by President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un and that the country remains willing to meet with the U.S. at any time.
In a statement Friday by state-run KCNA that cited Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea vowed to continue to pursue peace and signaled it would give Washington more time to reconsider talks.
“Our goal and will to do everything for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and mankind remains unchanged, and we are always willing to give time and opportunity to the US side with a big and open mind,” according to the statement. “We express our intent that there is a willingness to sit at any time, in any way to resolve issues.”
Earlier Thursday, Trump called the collapse of his planned summit with Kim a setback for both North Korea and the world, and said the U.S. military is ready if necessary in the event of a conflict on the Korean peninsula.
Trump speaks about the cancelled summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on May 24.
“While many things can happen and a great opportunity lies ahead, potentially, I believe this is a tremendous setback for North Korea and indeed a setback for the world,” Trump said at the White House hours after releasing a letter to Kim canceling the meeting.
Trump said he had spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the leaders of South Korea and Japan. The U.S. military is “ready if necessary,” he said, and the two Asian allies “are not only ready should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea, but they are willing to shoulder much of the financial cost or burden” of a conflict.
But Trump also held out hope that the June 12 summit in Singapore could get back on track, or that he and Kim could meet in the future. “Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right,” he said.
A senior administration official later downplayed the idea that the meeting could be put back on track for June 12. The North Koreans, the official said, have recently stopped cooperating on preparations for the summit. For example, U.S. officials traveled to Singapore last week expecting to meet with North Korean counterparts, but the North Koreans never showed up.
“They stood us up,” the official said at a briefing for reporters conducted on condition of anonymity.
South Korean President Moon Jae-In said that peace on the peninsula shouldn’t be abandoned and suggested that Trump and Kim hurt chances for a successful summit by speaking to each other through statements, tweets and spokespeople.
“It’s hard to resolve the diplomatic issue, which is both difficult and sensitive, with current way of communication,” Moon said in a statement. “I wish the leaders would have a more direct and closer conversation to deal with it.
Trump sounded a positive note as he left a bill signing event, telling reporters “the dialogue was good until recently” with Kim. And “Kim Jong Un wants to do what’s right,” adding, “I really believe that.”
“It’s only recently that this has been taking place and I think I understand why it’s been taking place,” he said. He declined to explain further, but Trump said earlier this week that planning for the summit had been proceeding well until Kim met May 8 with his closest ally, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is negotiating a trade dispute with Trump.