What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

What does North Korea need to do to restart U.S. talks?

President Trump had been set to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong Un on June 12. On Thursday, Trump pulled out of the talks. The path from confidence to cancellation included what a senior U.S. official described as Americans being "stood up" by the North Koreans at a planned logistical meeting in Singapore. Nick Schifrin reports and Judy Woodruff talks with Yamiche Alcindor.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Singapore summit is canceled, putting an end, for now at least, to planning for President Trump to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in early June.

    Today, the president sent a letter to Kim, announcing he’s pulling out and referring to the massive and powerful nuclear capabilities of the United States.

    Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.

    (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

  • President Donald Trump:

    Hello, everybody.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump once said his summit with Kim Jong-un could produce peace and safety for the world. Today, he said he had no choice but to cancel.

  • President Donald Trump:

     Based on the recent statement of North Korea, I’ve decided to terminate the planned summit. I believe that this is a tremendous setback for North Korea and, indeed, a setback for the world.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The path from confidence to cancellation included what a senior U.S. official described as Americans being stood up by North Koreans at a planned logistical meeting in Singapore. U.S. hope became doubt in less than a month.

  • John Bolton:

    I think we’re looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    On April 29th, national security advisor John Bolton invoked Libya and its former leader Muammar Gadhafi, who in 2003 traded his nascent nuclear program for normalization, but in 2011 was overthrown and killed by U.S.-backed rebels. On May the 16th, North Korean first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye Gwan called Bolton “repugnant” and said: If the U.S. is trying to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue.

    On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence repeated the reference to Libya.

  • Mike Pence:

    As the president made clear, this you know, this will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal.

  • Woman:

    Some people saw that as a threat.

  • Mike Pence:

     Well, I think it’s more of a fact.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Last night, chief North Korean negotiator Choe Son Hui called Pence’s remarks ignorant and stupid, and added: Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to- nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.

    Just hours later, Trump cited those words to cancel the summit, and immediately mentioned the U.S. military was prepared.

  • President Donald Trump:

     Our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere in the world, and has been greatly enhanced recently, as you all know, is ready if necessary.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That’s exactly the talk South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s been trying to prevent. He met President Trump just two days ago and today expressed surprise.

    I am very perplexed, he told his cabinet, and is very regrettable that the North Korea-U.S. summit will not be held.

    Trump walked away from the summit just hours after North Korea said it destroyed at least part of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. The U.S. says North Korea went back on its promise to invite experts, but journalists including “Associated Press” Raf Wober were there.

  • Raf Wober:

    The Nuclear Weapons Institute did try to emphasize that North Korea wants to demonstrate its willingness to denuclearize.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But the nature of that denuclearization remains in dispute. North Korea expresses interest in slow, step-by-step denuclearization, and step-by-step American incentives.

    The U.S. would prefer all-in-one denuclearization. And senior U.S. officials say North Korean broken promises and a break in communication convinced them that gap could not be breached.

    Here’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker.

  • Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.:

    You can tell when something’s coming together and people are getting back quickly, and the logistics are being worked out. It was your sense over the course of the last week or so that that was diminishing, is that correct?

  • Mike Pompeo:

    We got a lot of dial tones, Senator.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The intelligence community has long concluded Kim would not give up his nuclear weapons. But today, even after he cancelled, President Trump repeated his faith in Kim’s intentions.

  • President Donald Trump:

    They want to do what’s right. I really believe Kim Jong-un wants to do what’s right. So, hopefully, things will work out.

  • Nick Schifrin:

     President Trump says he felt very strongly about canceling, but still open to talking. The ball the U.S. says is now in North Korea’s court.

    For the “PBS NewsHour”, I’m Nick Schifrin.

    (END VIDEOTAPE)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For more now on why the president backed out of plans for the summit, I’m joined by our White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

    So, Yamiche, you have been working on the story all day. What more have you learned about this, about why?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    I’ve learned that the summit was canceled because White House officials believed that North Korea was engaged in a pattern of behavior that showed it wasn’t really serious about denuclearization. The senior White House official today said and told me and the other reporters that there was, quote, radio silence when it came to North Korea. So, American officials were trying to work out the logistics, the policy issues that they were going to cover, and at some point, they literally stopped getting called back from their North Korean counterparts and could gotten forward.

    So, this was canceled because they didn’t think they could be ready by June 12th.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, do you get a sense this is off permanently or there’s a chance that this could be — that this could come together again?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    I’ve been talking to a lot of people and that was my main question to them. Two people I can at least quote on the record were Kellyanne Conway who, of course, is the White House counselor, and Rudy Giuliani who is the president’s personal attorney, both of them and several other people who can’t be named all said they thought this was definitely going to happen, they thought President Trump is very much interested in having this meeting happen.

  • The problem is they’re not sure whether or not North Korea is going to really meet the conditions that they want. Rudy Giuliani told me particular:

    I don’t think it’s necessarily totally canceled. Kellyanne Conway made it a point to say that she thought there was so much that had been gained in the last couple of weeks, we think about the fact that there were hostages released from North Korea, that North Korean and South Korean leaders have their own summit. So, she thinks that because of all those things, that something could happen in the future.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting that the president’s attorney and president’s political counselor are talking about foreign policy.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

     Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche, what did you learn about what conditions or what the White House wants to have happen if anything’s going to move forward?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That’s the key here. I talked to people and asked them, OK, so, what needs to happen if the summit was going to happen, what can happen in the future? They told me a couple of things. They said that North Korea cannot engage in missile testing, nuclear testing and they cannot publicly object to the U.S. and South Korea military exercises. So, that’s kind of something that’s pretty clear.

    But the things that the White House has been more cagey to confirm are, there is reporting out there and at least one person confirmed this to me that they want North Korea to start dismantling its nuclear warheads, its nuclear material and interballistic (ph) missiles overseas and move them out of North Korea within six months. That was one person who told me that, but there were all the people at the White House I was trying to physically chase down today and none of them would confirm that.

    So, it’s still up in the air what North Korea has to do specifically for the United States to want to meet with them now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

     Sounds like still a lot of discussions underway internally.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

     I think if North Korea at least are picking up the phone, that they might be able to have a conversation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, we thank you.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest