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* Date : 2018-05-29
The North Korea-U.S. summit, originally scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12th, has been cancelled. On May 24, the White House disclosed a letter written by President Donald Trump addressed to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, informing him of the cancellation. President Trump cited the hostile and resentful attitude of North Korea's recent statements as the reason for behind the decision. North Korea's top negotiators in charge of U.S. policy had labeled White House national security adviser John Bolton a "false patriot", while calling Vice President Mike Pence as a "dimwit" who was incapable of distinguishing North Korea from Libya. South Korea's presidential Blue House called an emergency meeting at 11:30 pm immediately following the news of the summit's cancellation, where President Moon Jae-in expressed his regret over the developments. Meanwhile, North Korea had dismantled its nuclear test site at Punggye-ri just hours before President Trump had announced his decision. This week, on "Foreign Correspondents", we sit down with a panel of journalists to discuss the cancellation of the North Korea-U.S. summit and its fallout.
Donald Kirk, Correspondent / CBS Radio News
Bruce Harrison, Contributing Journalist / NBC News
Fabian Kretschmer, Journalist / Deutsche Welle
■ SM: Hello and welcome back to ForeignCorrespondents, I'm Seo Misorang with our panel of foreign journalists. Welcome to the program.
All: Thank you
■ SM: Now late last Thursday, US President Donald Trump pulled out of the summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
■ SM: Now the Kim Trump summit had always been shaky, to say the best, from the get-go so how surprised were you?
□ FB: Well I was quite a bit surprised actually uh half an hour before the before Trump canceled the summit I was still on onon air, on a television saying it's highly likely that the summit will take place, I mean I would have expected that s-one side will you know postpone the summit but the cancellation was a little bit of a shock for me actually.
■ SM: Okay still a shock.
▷ BR: Yeah I would say I was surprised by the timing, partially because it wasn't just hours before the North Korea hadostensibly uh demolished its nuclear testing grounds at Pungye-ri and so an-the Trump administration along said that be a sign of good faith moving forward if it actually followed through in front of an international audience, uh but it didn'tseem really to weigh on from sign, it was just hours later that he released this letter saying it's off.
■ SM: Right and Donald?
DN: Well of course I was completely shocked by the announcement which I had already written a story about the Pungye-ri and and suddenly I had to write a new opening for this story uh with all that and it wasn't easy. So Trump being the unpredictable figure that he is, is this thing really off ornot? Who knows for sure. I don't think we know until it happens or doesn't happen.
■ SM: Alright, okay. So this week on Foreign Correspondents the topic is the Kim Trump summit cancellation, its background and where it's headed, it's repercussions.
■ SM: Okay so let's begin with the May 24th letter that Trump sent to Kim Jong-un, what was your overall assessment of it?
DN: Well on the one hand it seemed polite and and quite diplomatically uh brave until you got to the line about how our nukes are better than your nukes or we have a lot more nukes than you do. (■ SM: Right and God hope we don't use them) and it was as if there's the fist uh he began with the nice talk and then then he then he was you know brandishing a fistuh so uh it was it was it was an interestingly written letter uh uh but you know, I don't know what to make of all these all these things what inspired it was the statement from uh from V-Vice foreign minister, not the Vice foreign minister, but a Vice foreign minister in which she used quite insulting language uh regarding vice president Pence. In the other handwhen you got to the bottom of her statement, she was saying well if they want to call it off they can, but uh you know but indicating that they were still ready to talk, so I think that uhNorth Korea in this bit of rhetoric may have overplayed its hand, uh you know, they didn't have to put out that letter uh if they really are seriously interested in a in a summit they could have uh you know waited a bit before before that kind ofrhetoric, but nonetheless I'm not blaming the cancellation entirely on North Korea by any means. I'm just saying that uh there I'm just saying that it was seems that there could have been a way around it and I think that North Korea may still be looking for a way around it and I think South Korea also wants a way around it.
■ SM: Okay
▷ BR: well it's worth noting that in the weeks leading up to thisletter, um not once, but twice North Korea attacked the US administration uh first Security Advisor John Bolton and thenMike Pence and I think maybe that gave Trump a little bit of ammunition, possibly an exit strategy because we learned more and more that it really didn't seem they had a plan going into the summit, they were pitching massive economic incentives and North Korea said boldly in state media we're not interested in any of those, so now Trump has threats against his vice president or at least nasty comments and his national security adviser, they don't have a plan going forward on how to get Kim to give up his nuclear weapons, so now here's an option, write this letter say, politely, as Donald suggested uh that we we delay this but you can call me anytime you want uh when you're ready to actually talk. This may give the US some time to uh pick up the pieces and sort out how they can actually maybe reach a legitimate deal with North Korea because it doesn't look like they have a plan at this point.
■ SM: Right. So do you think they used it as an excuse,the comments from Choi Sunhee?
▷ BR: Possibly, but there's one more thing to add. W-we also heard from White House officials today uh or shortly after the letter, that North Korea apparently wasn't showing up toSingapore for prep meetings. Uh they apparently just stood up the US officials who flew all the way out there uh and and the US officials cited that is another reason uh that we can't hold this summit now. How can we hold a summit if they're notthere to plan it with us?
■ SM: Right. Okay.
□ FB: I don't understand why the US um is citing the thenegotiate the slow negotiation process as the main reason uh for cancelling the summit because when you say um we are I mean of course those comments against uh Pence were nasty,but it's like someone you know let's say you used try to trigger a fight, but then in the end you you know you're too like, how to say, you you feel um y-you can't stand the heat and then you uh go away I think Trump triggered that situation and weca-should not confuse cause and effect and North Korea did quite a lot of concessions in the in the in the recent uh weeks and you know the US was very hard line, I mean, that they cancelled the Iran summit, that was not good for the North Koreans you know they um had those Libya comments all the time, that was not, they had the B-52 bombers uh reportedlyuh with their military drills so I mean um, I don't see North Korea as a driving force, but rather reacting and um about the letter, I found it not so polite but you know very funnily worded and that is an indication that I think Trump himself dictated that letter, it seems very authentic and Seoul's reaction was um we don't know what to make of of this letter we first have to see and that was also my reaction I didn'treally know it had so many directions and the message was not really clear.
■ SM: Alright. Okay
◇ DN: Actually, I would have thought that Trump wrote thatletter in close coordination with uh national security advisor John Bolton. You know, I think, I don't think he just sort of flipped it off without uh pretty good consultation with withwith Bolton uh I'm not I'm not sure he also talked to Pompeo about it but I think it's pretty sure that he talked at Bolton about it.
■ SM: Okay. Do you have different opinions?
▷ BR: No I agree I think he was in consultation probably withJohn Bolton, but it certainly had that Trump touch, that's all I have to say about that yeah.
■ SM: His Trump style of wording.
▷ BR: Yes definitely.
■ SM: Now if we talk about the timing of it, it came just hours as you mentioned earlier just hours after Pyongyang ostensibly dismantled it's Pungye-ri nuclear site, so what do you make of that, the timing of it?
□ FB: Well Trump doesn't look good in this. I mean um at least for most countries and the audiences in most countries Trumpis uh they would put to Trump uh they would put the blame on Trump uh for the cancellation and um we know from the journalists who are right now in North Korea for example Will Ripley from CNN, he was in a room with party officials,um North Korean party officials, while the news came out and they were really shocked (■ SM: They stood up and) and their point of view would be just you know you know detonated our um uh nuclear test (■ SM: Nuclear test site) nuclear test site right and now this happens so um that that came as a surprise I think for them too.
■ SM: Okay and now if we have a look at the regional powers, Donald Trump said during his summit with President Moon Jae-in that he thinks Kim Jong-un changed his tone after talking with President Xi Jinping of China, so what kind of influence do you think China had?
▷ BR: It's hard to say, I mean those those conversations between the leadership of China North Korea are always um pretty untransparent. You know um Kim Jong-un traveled there recently and there was analysis saying both sides uh Kim went there to ask for China's help, he said, hey can we cut a deal to make sure that these sanctions come down a little bit, how can you help us out on that front? Others suggest that he was simply there just to reassert his authority, I'm the leader of North Korea I can travel here because I want to, I'm aninternational player and it was to, you know, create a bolder image for Kim um and it's interesting to you know speculateon what Xi could have maybe offered Kim Jong-un, uh but it's hard to say and uh beyond that regionally uh I'm not toofamiliar with what you know could play out.
■ SM: Okay. Fabian?
□ FB: Well I don't know what happened but um I mean definitely China has the highest leverage on North Korea so if Xi Jinping wanted to collapse the the economy of North Korea, he could do that in in a couple of months I guess, but of course uh China doesn't have an interest uh for a a you know collapse of the North Korean uh regime but yeah I Ithink uh uh Xi Jinping has a lot of authority um towards Kim Jong-un.
▷ BR: I ultimately think Xi Jinping wants this situation to end peaceably. Uh you know threats of war are-aren't good for the Chinese Republic as well um and you know they rely a lot onon border trade or North Korea relies on border trade with China so I think they have probably strongly shared interests at this point.
◇ DN: There's a theory on that uh that uh Kim Jong-un would like to have a summit partly to get out from under the thumb of China. Then he would like to play the US against China and be somewhat more non-aligned, uh which is extremely difficult uh some people think that well Xi Jinping summoned him and and was trying to tell him what to do and maybe Kim Jong-un didn't really like to be told what to do, certainly theNorth Koreans in general don't like China to be telling them what to do and I imagine that Kim Jong-un would feel that way too uh so you know if the US got along with with uh North Korea, with uh Kim Jong-un, then there's the chance that North that North Korea could be pulled into a somewhat, uh I won't say really non-aligned, but as some somewhat less close to China, somewhat away from China.
■ SM: Okay now the cancellation also came on theheels of the Moon Trump summit, so do you think this shows some sort of problem with Moon's diplomacy?
◇ DN: I think that he's doing everything he can to try to bring uh President Trump and Kim Jong-un together again. See if they can uh sort out a meeting, uh see if maybe Kim Jong-un might say well no we really wanna see you you know you know he can be quite charming himself as we know from his his uh summit with uh with Moon. And so you know uh I think thatuh Moon is certainly uh more than a little taken aback by this,but I think that we'll get we're gonna see him trying still trying to bring about reconciliation and above all dialoguebetween uh Trump and uh Kim Jong-un and as far as Moon's concerned I don't think that's over yet.
▷ BR: I agree with Don, I mean um there's still a lot of potential I think Moon sees at least with North Korea for now,I think he has an opportunity to resume the talks at the border to try and move forward on some of the peace initiatives they agreed to at the April 27th summit. As far as we know he's still invited to go to Pyongyang, the Kim Jong-un, uh Kim'sinvitation you know an invite he made in that summit and andMoon is of the mindset that um if we look at the past and welook at past summits that failed and didn't lead to denuclearization, we're only going to fail again. He said why not now and yeah totally agree with Don I think he's gonnacontinue to push and the first response from South Korea to this letter from Trump was we think that those two sides should have closer cooperation and communication, there'ssome communication issues, let's iron those out so hope for Moon I think so far.
■ SM: That they should talk directly. So now if we move on from the timing of the letter to the contents, Donald Trump hecited comments against Vice President Mike Pence as being the reason, he specified that that was a reason for thecancellation, so do you think the comments made by Choi Sunhee was th-to say the last straw for Washington?
▷ BR: I'm sure it upset President Trump uh and uh especially uh vice president Mike Pence, but as Fabian suggested earlier,you know why not the fact that North Korea didn't show up to Singapore for the uh prepared for the planning meetings for this summit and that's what we've heard from Washington officials uh I think there was multiple factors, maybe it was the straw that broke the camel's back uh, but I'll say again, I think I think the White House needed an opportunity to toback off a little bit, to prepare more of a stronger strategy ingoing into meeting with Kim Jong-un, this may give them the time, maybe not, North Korea seems that it is still interested in holding talks probably from the foreign ministry, uh but maybe maybe that's not the case and Trump has walked away from a meeting he'll ever have another opportunity to have, uhbut they certainly need more time, I don't think uh Pence anduh Trump can are unable to handle nasty remarks from North Korea I don't think it really got under their skin that deeply.
■ SM: Okay
□ FB: Yeah I agree, I mean I wouldn't rule out that this was thereal reason but I think it could be a pretext actually and I think Trump you know, he's a strong narcissist and maybe he's not his only concern is uh world peace, but also like getting getting home with a deal, getting the Nobel Peace Prize or getting like some personal gain. I think now he realized, oh probably after Singapore he will not go home with the deal, so no deal, no summit, so he got afraid uh got you know uh cold feet and you know backed off.
■ SM: So perhaps if he couldn't achieve the deal to the outcome that he wanted, better not have the deal in the first place (□ FB: Exactly). If you mention the idea of buying time,um what kind of frame of time are we looking at do you think?
▷ BR: That's a good question, I mean right now it doesn't seem that the US administration has any uh strategy or or offer to North Korea that it could swallow, if they were to meet and touh reiterate something Don was talking about, we don't knowexactly what denuclearization means, but that is the ultimate goal of the US, for them, it's CVID, it's complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization. What does it mean in North Korea? A pullout of US troops from the peninsula, from the region uh and how did how do they prove that to North Korea.Uh they're still on very opposite sides of the page and I don't know how long it'll take to draw that up. Maybe Moon's the man.
◇ DN: Uh I would hope that that President Trump is not gonnabe threatening fire and fury on North Korea and I would hope that North Korea is not gonna be threatening to uh nuke the White House. Hopefully, uh it won't happen and that there will be still efforts great efforts to bring about that talks and reconciliation with or without summit level talks, a measure of reconciliation would be really great. What's gonna happen for instance to family visits which were supposed to happen on August 15th they were supposed to be discussed betweenaids of President Moon and a and a North Korean team. I think North Korea canceled those talks because of the Max Thunder aerial exercises, but they're over they're finishing in fact, they're done and so they can go on with those talks andhopefully go go ahead with family visits and commercial ties which they don't have and should uh have cross-border railtraffic which they don't have and should have uh and a lot of other issues that may seem a little boring but are a lot betterthan threatening uh nuclear warfare.
■ SM: Okay
▷ BR: That's a good point Don I mean, yeah North and South maybe need to do some work right now and that'll show the US that maybe North Korea is willing to actually negotiate an earnest beyond then and it could be opening the case on industrial complex or tourism again, uh but yeah.
□ FB: Oh but I think that's that's that's a dangerous scenario folding out, because let's say if the two Koreas open up umGaesong or if China is not so persuaded anymore to um you know implement the maximum pressure if they also if there's border ec-economic border ties between China and North Korea too, that would buy the North Korean regime time. So Trump then he basically has two options, either accept North Korea at least for now as a nuclear state or go back to his warthreats and uh to be honest I can-would not be able to predict what will happen.
■ SM: Okay
DN: It's a it's a very complicated situation uh which uh which none of us can really predict. If we started making predictions, we're gonna be proven wrong very quickly.
■ SM: Once again yes. So if we look at going forward from hereand look at what South Korea can do, what are some issues there president Moon needs to address first and foremost inthis situation?
DN: Well in this situation, I think he needs to get the uh talks going, the working-level talks going first (■ SM: Between the two Koreas?) between the two Koreas, between North and South, he's got to get he's got to get these back on track. North Korea made a show of canceling them during these uh recent Max Thunder exercises, but that's over so let's let's get the talks going and let's start talking about practical issues uh and first and foremost in my opinion, is the family visits thing, it'sa very emotional issue and these people are dying off, they've got to have family visits, they agreed in June 2000 during the when Kim Dae-Jung reached his uh declaration with uh Kim Jong-Il, they agreed on family visits. They've only had about20 of them, I think about 20 or 23 thousand people from both sides have reunited, why don't they have it every month, why don't they rotate them in and out of out of out of the Mount Kumgang zone. Just maybe every week a group would can go over and another group of another group, I don't know why uhthat has to be put on hold and why it has to become a political issue, but I think that's an urgent issue which can be discussed in these working-level talks and another issue is this railroad uh getting a railroad railroads going on east and west coast between North and South Korea some years ago, Hyundai built beautiful railroads uh going to Kaesong on one side and Mount Kumgang complex on the on the east side. Those railroads are unused, they're gleaming there. I've seen them, they're they look beautiful, but nothing moves on them. It's ridiculous. W-why can't they get them moving? Uh for thatmatter if they ever got family visits moving, families could go uh to Mount Kumgang by uh railroad.
■ SM: Okay so perhaps working-level talks and some of the longer standing issues.
▷ BR: Yeah I can't say better than Don that I meancommunication is key and the more of that, the less under misunderstandings there will be, so um Moon needs theworking-level talks back on track, he needs to maybe remind people that he has a plan uh visit to North Korea with KimJong-un and then we'll go from there but uh yeah some family unions reunions I think would be a good start. You know,you're not throwing North Korea economic incentives at that point, we're not worried about breakening-breaking sanctions but we're reuniting a divided people, as Don said that they're dying off.
■ SM: Alright guys, we have to wrap up there, do you have any final comments?
□ FB: Well um I really hope that the summit will take place let's say maybe not in June hopefully in July or if not that, in August.
■ SM: Okay
▷ BR: Yeah still a bit uh shocked uh hearing this news from Washington, but I I agree with Fabian. I hope the summit does take place and uh ultimately we don't return to a 2017 uh Trump and Kim trading barbs and people here actually worrying about a possible attack of some kind
■ SM: Right
◇ DN: I think all of us uh think that the summit should happen, but more than that, I think a lot of moves other moves towardsreconciliation should happen. I think South Korea's gonna be doing that, I hope that the US will be encouraging that too and uh we we'll also do whatever it can uh it well to make it happen and not just stand in the way with what shall I say, unnecessary comments. Enough in high places, please don't bring up the Libyan example again, I think we've done that you know, let's forget about that one.
■ SM: Alright guys thank you very much for joining me and sharing your thoughts with us.
All: Thank you Thanks
■ SM: Now we continue to hope for direct talks between Kim and Trump as well as for the complete denuclearization of and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. That's all the time we have for today thank you for tuning in and goodbye.