Why Did Trump Cancel The North Korea Summit? His Letter To Kim Jong Un Was Blunt

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On Thursday, after months of anticipation, Donald Trump canceled the North Korea summit. The summit was slated to take place in Singapore next month, but Trump issued a statement canceling it in response to what he described as Kim Jong Un's "tremendous anger and open hostility."

The June 12 summit would have been the first face-to-face meeting between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader, according to CNBC. Trump's decision to cancel the summit came shortly after North Korea dismantled its primary test site for nuclear weapons. However, a top North Korean diplomat — Choe Son Hui, vice minister of foreign affairs — simultaneously asserted that Pyongyang was prepared for a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown” if the United States did not compromise on the issue of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

In a statement issued earlier on Thursday, Choe also suggested that North Korea could make the United States "taste an appalling tragedy." This statement was in response to Mike Pence's suggestion that North Korea might "end like the Libyan model" if Kim refused to make a deal. Pence was referring to the fact that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was forced from power and killed by rebels in 2011, eight years after Libya's denuclearization. Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, has also attempted to link North Korea to the Libya model.

These increasingly frustrated exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang ultimately led Trump to cancel the summit altogether — something that North Korea had already threatened to do.

In a letter that Trump addressed to Kim, the president stated that he was calling off the summit because it would be "inappropriate, at this time." Some portions of the letter were conciliatory; Trump thanked Kim for the release of three American hostages earlier this month, and expressed a desire to meet the North Korean leader at some point in the future. However, Trump also said that the summit was being canceled "to the detriment of the world," and included what appeared to be a thinly veiled warning.

"You talk about your nuclear capabilities," Trump wrote, "but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used."

Trump nonetheless told Kim that he thought a "wonderful dialogue was building up" between them, and concluded his letter by encouraging Kim to reach out if he wanted to discuss the summit further:

If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.

According to CNN, Choe's Thursday morning statement — in which she referred to Pence as a "political dummy" and denounced his "ignorant and stupid remarks" comparing North Korea to Libya — was the final straw before Trump decided to cancel the summit. However, Trump cast doubt on the summit before Choe said anything about Pence. On Tuesday, Trump told reporters that "there is a very substantial chance that it won’t work out," The Guardian reported. He added that he and Kim were still likely to have a meeting eventually — just not on June 12, as planned.

Shortly after Trump's letter to Kim was made public, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo read it aloud in a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The committee's chairman, Bob Corker, told reporters that the summit's cancellation was a "little bit of a setback," but that North Korea was "not quite ready" to have the meeting.