Amid the widespread diplomatic uncertainty caused by Donald Trump abruptly canceling the upcoming US-North Korea summit yesterday (May 24), one key voice has remained remarkably calm: that of the top US military commander on the Korean peninsula.
Though Trump canceled the summit on Thursday citing "tremendous anger and open hostility" from Pyongyang, he left the door open for future summits or reconciliation, telling Kim in a letter that he could write or call him at any time.
Trump's decision came after repeated threats by North Korea to pull out of the summit over what it saw as confrontational remarks by United States officials.
In Pyongyang, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said North Korea's recent criticisms of certain United States officials had been a reaction to unbridled American rhetoric and that the current antagonism showed "the urgent necessity" for the summit. We're talking to them now. It could even be the 12th.
In a statement by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan released to KCNA news service, North Korea still wants to meet with the Trump administration saying, "we are always willing to provide time and opportunity to the USA with a generous and open mind".
Earlier in a tweet, the president welcomed North Korea's response to the cancellation of the meeting.
Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump's withdrawal "unexpected" and "very regrettable", and said the cancellation of the talks showed "how grave the status of historically deep-rooted hostile North Korea-U.S. relations is and how urgently a summit should be realized to improve ties". He called the North's reaction "warm and productive" and expressed hope for "long and enduring prosperity and peace".
In Itaewon, a popular Seoul nightlife district Thursday night, 20-year-old Jae Hye-rim told TIME she was happy the talks were off because she did not want unification with the North for economic reasons.
North Korea itself seemed taken aback.
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The abrupt announcement came hours after North Korea demolished its Punggye-ri nuclear test site in front of global journalists in a northeastern mountainous part of the country.
After years of tension over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme, Kim and Trump agreed this month to hold what would be the first meeting between a serving US president and a North Korean leader.
"We have inwardly highly appreciated President Trump for having made the bold decision, which any other USA presidents dared not, and made efforts for such a crucial event as the summit", Kim Kye Gwan statement said. It often doesn't get mentioned but Donald Trump actually blames China for some of this impasse.
In the US, Republican Senator Tom Cotton praised President Trump for "seeing through Kim Jong-un's fraud".
A number of analysts tell VOA News there could still be a Trump-Kim summit soon.
He added: "Although Kim certainly wants this summit, it's something he has aimed for for a long time, he won't be too unhappy, he can afford to be content with where he is". "It's clear he didn't know what he was getting into", she said of Trump.
Mr Trump said he had been "very much looking forward" to meeting Mr Kim.
North Korea issued a statement Friday saying it is still "willing to give the USA time and opportunities" to reconsider talks "at any time, at any format".
"His sudden and unilateral announcement to cancel the summit is something unexpected to us and we can not but feel great regret for it", Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement on state media.