President Trump sent an emotional letter to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, on Thursday canceling their scheduled rendezvous in Singapore on June 12 and lamenting the missed opportunities.
“I was very much looking forward to being there with you,” Mr. Trump said. “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.”
But Mr. Trump, who at times sounded like a jilted partner, also held out the possibility for future talks. “If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit,” he wrote, “please do not hesitate to call me or write.”
Here are the developments in a rocky relationship that got us to this point:
AUG. 8, 2017 First Impressions
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
SEPT. 19, 2017 Name Calling
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” – Mr. Trump, in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly
MARCH 6, 2018 Early Courting
“The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize. It made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed.” – A statement from South Korean envoys who met with Mr. Kim.
MARCH 8, 2018 Setting A Date
7:11 p.m. E.S.T.
South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, made a statement from the White House driveway, a highly unusual move, announcing major developments in U.S.-North Korean relations. “I told President Trump that in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests,” Mr. Chung said
9:08 p.m. E.S.T.
Mr. Trump, on his favorite platform hours later, confirmed the news.
APRIL 29, 2018 Bringing Up The Past
During an interview on the CBS News
program Face the Nation
Margaret Brennan, CBS News
: “But is it a requirement that Kim Jong-un agree to give away those weapons before you give any kind of concession?”
John R. Bolton, National Security Adviser
: “I think that’s right. I think we’re looking at the Libya model of 2003-2004.”
This was an awkward, if not foreboding, message to North Korea. In the “Libya model,” the North African country’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, ceded his nascent nuclear program in exchange for economic integration with the West. Years later, the United States began military action in Libya to prevent Colonel Qaddafi from massacring his own people. He ultimately went on the run and met a violent end when he was pulled from a ditch and brutally killed.
After that, the narrative in North Korea became clear: Had he not surrendered his nuclear program, North Korean officials said, he might still be alive.
MAY 10, 2018 The Big Gesture
Three American prisoners freed from North Korea return home.
“We want to thank Kim Jong-un, who really was excellent to these three incredible people,” the president said of the Americans who had been kept prisoner in North Korea.
“We’re starting off on a new footing,” Mr. Trump added of their release. “That was a big thing, very important to me and I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful.”
MAY 15, 2018 Power Struggle
“It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial state of nuclear development,” Vice Minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement. He added, “If the United States is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the North Korea-U.S. summit.”
MAY 21, 2018 Pence Doubles Down
During an interview on the Fox News program The Story:
Vice President Mike Pence
: “We offered concessions to the North Korean regime in exchange for promises to end their nuclear weapons programs only to see them break those promises and abandon them. It would be a great mistake for Kim Jong-un to think he could play Donald Trump.”
Martha MacCallum, Fox News host
: “So, clearly the president is still willing to walk away.”
Vice President Pence
: “Well, there’s no question, but look it’s – we hope for better. We really hope that Kim Jong-un will seize the opportunity to dismantle his nuclear weapons program and do so by peaceable means. You know, there were some talk about the Libya model last week. And you know, as the president made clear, you know, this will only end like the Libya Model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal.”
MAY 23, 2018 Ultimatum
“As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” said North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son-hui. “In case the U.S. offends against our good will and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the D.P.R.K.-U.S. summit.”
MAY 24, 2018 Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off
Trump writes a letter:
“Please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
But Mr. Trump left the door open with an optimistic eye to the future, saying, “If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.”