President Donald Trump walked away this week from a scheduled June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un aimed at ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program saying he was disturbed by recent statements out of North Korea that displayed “tremendous anger and open hostility.”
Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal were quick to criticize Trump’s actions. The two Democrats, in separate statements, blamed Trump for failing to do the preparatory diplomatic work necessary for a successful summit.
“Given how amateurish the rollout and planning for these talks have been, no one should be surprised they are being called off,” said Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“The North Korean summit failed before it began because President Trump was unwilling and unable to do the hard work of diplomacy. Blustery rhetoric is no foreign policy, and President Trump’s petulance has made America and our allies less safe,” Blumenthal said.
In a letter sent to Kim, Trump said it would be inappropriate to continue on with the summit in Singapore as planned based on recent hostile remarks. A North Korea official recently referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy.”
Trump spoke Thursday morning about his decision during a bill signing ceremony in which he announced that he was “terminating” the June 12 summit. Trump, however, left the door open for the summit to occur but put the onus on Kim to make that happen.
He also said that the United States would continue putting economic pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program and that the U.S. military was prepared “if necessary” to respond to any “foolish” actions that Kim might consider.
“Hopefully, positive things will be taking place with respect to the future of North Korea. But if they don’t, we are more ready than we have ever been before,” Trump said. “I really believe we have a great opportunity. We’ll see whether or not that opportunity is seized by North Korea. If it is, great for them, and great for the world. If it isn’t, it will be just fine.”
The fate of the summit, however, had already been in doubt before Trump pulled the plug on it as North Korea had earlier threatened to withdraw over comments that Pence made during an interview on Fox News that Pyongyang saw as an attempt to force them to the negotiating table.
The tensions began a week ago when National security adviser John Bolton offered that North Korea should voluntarily surrender its nuclear arsenal as Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had done in 2003. The comment alarmed North Korea because ultimately Qaddafi was killed during the Arab Spring upheavals in 2011 that the United States supported.
On Fox News, Pence warned that it would be a “great mistake” if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal because North Korea could end up like Libya.
“I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president,” said North Korea’s Choe Son Hui, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, in the statement.
Murphy described the comments from Bolton and Pence as “unhelpful” and the lead up to the meeting as being “as discombobulated as everything else in the White House’s foreign policy.”
Murphy said that he hopes the talks will happen fearing the unacceptable alternative of military action that may be promoted by “White House war cheerleaders.” On social media, he opined: “If you’re like me, and worried this sudden, out of nowhere surge of North Korea “diplomacy” was just an effort to check a box before moving to unauthorized military action, today is a really, really bad day.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations hours after the announcement where he read aloud the letter Trump sent to Kim Jong-un and responded to suggestions from Democrats that the Trump team was ill-prepared for the summit.
“I think the American team is fully prepared. I think we are rockin’. I think we are ready,” he said.
A day before Trump’s announcement, former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman suggested on Fox News that the turmoil bubbling ahead of the summit may be part of a grander negotiating strategy.
“This is the art of the deal president,” he told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo. “I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes but it looks like something is bubbling.”
Lieberman, who now is chairman of United Against Nuclear Iran, suggested that Trump may want to make it clear to Kim Jong-un that the United States is not wedded to striking a deal in Singapore in the same way that the Obama administration seemed to be over Iran’s nuclear program.
“It certainly came to look like we wanted the deal more than the Iranians wanted it, and it’s part of the reason why it ended up a bad deal,” Lieberman said.
Watch the interview below: