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Trump almost canceled Singapore summit a day before meeting Moon in Washington: Bolton memoir

14:38 June 22, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, June 22 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump almost tweeted that he was canceling his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a day before he was set to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House in May 2018, according to his former national security adviser, John Bolton.

In his upcoming memoir, "The Room Where It Happened," Bolton wrote that Trump was ready to tweet a message canceling the planned summit with Kim in Singapore on May 21, 2018, a day before his planned summit with Moon but blamed his phone for not doing so.

"One question was whether to cancel Singapore just as Moon Jae-in came to town or wait until he departed," Bolton wrote in the book set to be published Tuesday.

"I urged Trump to act now, because doing so after Moon left would seem like an explicit rebuff of Moon, which was unnecessary," he said. "Trump agreed, saying, 'I may tweet tonight.'"

Bolton then spoke with Vice President Mike Pence and Trump's then chief of staff, John Kelly, and both agreed that the president should tweet the message.

This AP photo shows a copy of "The Room Where It Happened" by former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton. (Yonhap)

The next morning, however, there was no such tweet from Trump. Trump later told his chief of staff John Kelly "that his cell phone had not been working the night before, but he told me he wanted to let Moon have his say before canceling," according to Bolton.

Bolton recalls that "with a distinct lack of enthusiasm" he met Moon's top security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, and his colleagues for breakfast that morning to discuss the Moon-Trump meeting later that day.

"The South still wanted Moon in Singapore for a trilateral after the Trump-Kim meeting," he added.

Trump opened the May 22 summit with Moon by saying there was about "a 25 percent chance the Singapore meeting would happen" and in response, Moon stressed his support for complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, and his optimistic view there was "a zero percent chance" Singapore wouldn't happen, according to Bolton.

The situation changed, however, after North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui issued a stinging attack on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, calling him a "political dummy" and basically threatening nuclear war because of Pence's remarks.

"I reached Trump at ten p.m. I explained the situation and suggested we demand an apology, at least implying Singapore would be canceled without one," Bolton wrote.

Bolton quoted Trump as saying, "That's strong," after he read the president Choe's remarks.

"We all agreed that so vitriolic a statement could have come only with Kim Jong Un's express approval," Bolton wrote. "Trump didn't hesitate to cancel the Singapore meeting."

But less than 24 hours after the cancellation decision, Trump "seized on a slightly less belligerent statement by a different North Korean foreign ministry official to order us to get the June 12 meeting back on schedule," Bolton said.

"This was a clear mistake in my view, an open admission Trump was desperate to have the meeting at any price," he wrote.

hague@yna.co.kr
(END)

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