Still, the collapse of the summit was not entirely a surprise, even if Thursday’s announcement was abrupt. North Korea has offered diplomatic openings to the United States several times over the past decades, only to return to bellicose threats. Even after Trump accepted Kim’s invitation to meet in March, most administration officials put the likelihood of the summit actually happening at less than 50% — and administration officials grew increasingly skeptical over the last week.
US officials had also grown increasingly skeptical of Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization. On Wednesday, CNN reported the Trump administration was looking to have additional high-level talks for assurances from Kim for complete denuclearization before the summit went ahead.
Hours later, a North Korean official lashed out at Pence and said Pyongyang is ready for a nuclear showdown if dialogue with the United States fails.
Choe Son Hui, a vice-minister in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, said if the US continued on its current path, she would suggest to North Korea’s leadership that they reconsider the planned summit between Trump and Kim.
“Whether the US 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,” Choe said in comments carried by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency Thursday.
Choe was responding to comments by Pence made Monday during a Fox News interview that she deemed “unbridled and impudent.”