TOKYO – South Korea's foreign ministry called on Washington and Pyongyang on Saturday not to abandon the negotiating table despite the unexpected cancellation of US Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo's planned trip to North Korea.
President Trump had canceled Pompeo's visit on Friday, a few days before the secretary arrived in Pyongyang, citing insufficient progress in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The abrupt shift of Trump's public position seemed to surprise many people in Asia, but was not a complete shock ̵
North Korea did not respond immediately to the announcement. But South Korea tried to play down the worries.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-was spoke to Pompeo on Saturday, expressing his regret over the cancellation of the trip, while continuing to call for talks on peace and North Korea's nuclear program
"It is more important to steer into every situation Focusing diplomatic efforts on the faithful implementation of what was agreed at the summit meeting between the United States and North Korea and the inter-Korean summit "Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed his appreciation for Pompeo's" prompt communication "of the telephone decision and said that Both countries would continue to work together to take "specific measures" to achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
From China, however, there was pushback. In a statement released on Saturday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang denounced Trump for his remarks by saying that they displayed a "total disregard for the facts".
"China's position on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is consistent and clear," the statement said. "We are determined to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula." Kang said China is making "unremitting efforts" to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and calling on all parties to "stay in the search for a political solution."
In Tweets Trump argued that because of his "harsher trading stance," the Chinese did not "help with the process of denuclearization as it once was."
"Secretary Pompeo is looking forward to going to North Korea in the near future, probably after our trading relationship with China is resolved," Trump tweeted. "In the meantime, I send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim, and I look forward to seeing him soon!"
Experts have said that China has continued to largely pass UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea, but has eased enforcement at the border in the United States last months. China has again allowed more Chinese tourists to visit North Korea this year, as relations between the two countries have improved significantly.
But Chung Min Lee, a senior contributor to the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace in Washington, said China was not responsible for the deadlock between the United States and North Korea. Trump "overvalued profits" from his Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and needed another culprit, Lee said.
Only now does Trump realize that North Korea at least did not want to give up its nuclear weapons not as fast as it wanted, Lee said.
However, Trump is right in one respect, experts said. His trade war with China has caused considerable trouble in Beijing and makes it unlikely that the local government could be brought to cooperate if the US again wants to "put maximum pressure" on North Korea's economy.
"It's difficult what Trump is trying to do," Lee said. "He's trying to punish China in trade … at the same time he wants China's help."
Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute, a government-led think tank in Seoul, said Trump has the will Solving the North Korea Situation, but Lacking a Coherent Strategy
"On his last visit to Pyongyang, Pompeo reportedly requested a list of nuclear sites in North Korea without proposing any compensation plans in return," Cheong said. "North Korea recognizes that the list reveals all of its maps to the US, and they will not do so without specific Washington promises, and the call for the denuclearization timetable must go along with the timetable for the rewards."
Cheong said the cancellation of Pompeo's visit had brought the ball into the courtyard of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which is due to come to Pyongyang in September, could play a role in facilitating negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.
But it could also strengthen China's hand as President Xi Jinping was widely expected to attend celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Korea in Pyongyang.
"If Xi can make a meaningful agreement with Kim Jong Un during his visit to Pyongyang in September, China will get a boost in the diplomacy game by taking on the role of the US," Cheong said.
Park Jie-won, a former special envoy of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his late father Kim Jong Il, also warned Trump to leave the dialogue.
"If this chan If you miss, the future of North Korea will darken to an immense chaos, the leaders of North Korea and the US should go back to Sentosa, Singapore," he wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday.
Luna Lin in Beijing contributed to this report.