US President Donald Trump has said his highly anticipated summit with North Korea’s leader might still go ahead, a day after abruptly cancelling the meeting.
Trump suggested on Friday that the summit – initially planned for June 12 in Singapore – could still happen after welcoming a conciliatory statement from North Korea which said that it remained open to talks despite the cancellation.
“It was a very nice statement they put out,” Trump said at the White House.
“We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it,” he added.
“We’ll see what happens – it could even be the 12th.”
His comments marked the latest developments in a long-running saga over a summit – the culmination of nearly six months of intense diplomacy – which would have been the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.
Concerns grew earlier this month after North Korea responded to the US calling for the denuclearisation of the peninsula and a complete dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme by threatening to pull out of the summit unless Washington offered something in return.
Amid the rising uncertainty, South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived on Tuesday in Washington, DC, to meet Trump and hold talks widely seen as an effort to ensure his summit with Kim Jong-un went ahead.
But two days later, Trump sent a letter to Kim saying the summit would no longer be possible “based on the tremendous anger and open hostility” shown by Pyongyang in its most recent statements.
In response, North Korea said earlier on Friday it was still “intent to sit with the US side to solve [the] problem regardless of way at any time”.
“We remain unchanged in our goal and will to do everything we could for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and humankind, and we, broad-minded and open all the time, have the willingness to offer the US side time and opportunity,” said Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea’s vice foreign minister.
Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, DC, said Trump’s latest comments showed that there was “a sense of … re-engagement” between the two sides.
Although Trump suggested that the summit could even take place on June 12, as originally planned, White House officials downplayed that prospect saying a meeting so soon seemed unlikely, said Halkett.
She added, however, that White House staff were eager to underscore that their focus was not on the date of the summit but achieving denuclearisation.
“Many people said that Trump, maybe because of his lack of political expertise, was a bit naive in how these things work, quickly accepting the invitation without even consulting staff in the first place,” said Halkett.
“Now he may have some time to dial back, work incrementally to set up this in a more traditional fashion so that the conversation – if and when it does take place – can be productive.”
Trump-Kim meeting ‘indispensable’
Earlier, South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said that Seoul was still ready to implement an agreement on denuclearisation reached between the leaders of the two Koreas in April.
“Our government will do its part in carrying out the Panmunjom Declaration,” Cho told reporters, according to the news agency Yonhap.
Kim and Moon Jae-in issued the declaration following their April 27 meeting at the border between the two countries.
Separately, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday that Tokyo was disappointed by the cancellation of the summit, saying it was necessary to make progress.
“In the future, we need such a meeting – it is indispensable to resolve the problems which have accumulated,” said Abe, who is in Russia’s second city of St Petersburg attending an annual economic forum.