President Donald Trump said Friday that his administration has restarted dialogue with North Korea following his cancellation of a historic summit.
“We’ll see what happens. We’re talking to them now,” he told reporters as he left the White House on his way to speak at the U.S. Naval Academy graduation.
The president added that the scrapped meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “could” still happen. It is unclear whether Trump meant that Washington and Pyongyang had restarted direct negotiations, or what form those communications took.
The summit, part of a process the U.S. hopes will lead to Pyongyang abandoning its nuclear and missile programs, had been set for June 12 in Singapore. It would have been the first time a U.S. president met with a North Korean leader.
On Thursday, Trump abruptly abandoned the summit amid what he called “tremendous anger and open hostility” displayed by the communist dictatorship. A senior White House official said North Korea had stopped direct communication with the U.S. over the previous week.
In a statement issued Thursday evening in response to the summit cancellation, North Korean official Kim Kye-gwan said Pyongyang is “willing to give the U.S. time and opportunities” to reconsider negotiations “at any time, at any format.” Kim added that “we remain unchanged in our willingness to do everything we can for the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and of the humanity.”
On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that it was “very good news” to receive a “warm and productive” statement from North Korea in which the regime indicated its willingness to reconsider talks.
Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea. We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 25 mai 2018
Separately Friday, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters the Trump administration got some “possibly” good news on North Korea, according to Reuters. He said a summit could still take place.
Trump’s remarks Friday marked a sharp turn from the aggressive tone the president took Thursday following his decision to cancel the summit. Trump said a “greatly enhanced” U.S. military “is ready if necessary” should North Korea take “foolish or reckless” action.
However, Trump also stressed that he wants a peaceful resolution and was still open to talks. He said “nobody should be anxious” despite the cancellation of the talks designed to head off North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons.
“If and when Kim Jong Un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting. In the meantime, our very strong sanctions, by far the strongest sanctions ever imposed, and maximum pressure campaign will continue as it has been continuing,” Trump said.
The U.S. and its international allies such as South Korea and Japan have tried to isolate North Korea economically to force Kim to abandon his nuclear ambitions. Reports Thursday indicated the Trump administration could consider new sanctions after the summit fell apart.
Speaking in St. Petersburg on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the world should keep pushing for a U.S.-North Korea summit to take place. The Japanese leader said he wants to see concrete steps toward North Korea dismantling its weapons program.
The latest escalation between Washington and Pyongyang came this week, when Vice President Mike Pence warned that the North Korean regime may end up like former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. His government was toppled years after he agreed to give up his budding nuclear weapons program.
Choe Son Hui, a North Korean official, responded by calling Pence’s remarks “ignorant and stupid.”
Trump’s move to cancel the summit apparently surprised American allies, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Moon played a major role in negotiating the cancelled meeting.