President Trump announced Friday that he instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, citing a lack of progress towards denuclearization.
Mr. Pompeo announced Thursday that he would make his fourth trip to North Korea next week. Stephen Biegun, the newly appointed special representative to North Korea, was meant to be joining the trip.
State Department officials said Thursday there was “no expectation” Mr. Pompeo would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the visit.
The president blamed the ongoing trade war with China for being at least partially responsible for the stalemate with North Korea. He no longer believes China is “helping with the progress of denuclearization as they once were.”
He said that Mr. Pompeo will return to North Korea “in the near future” once the trade dispute is settled.
Mr. Trump’s criticism of China comes after he touted his relationship with President Xi Jinping during an interview Thursday with Fox News.
“I get along great with President Xi,” he said, “But I can no longer give you $5 billion in bad trade deals.”
However, Thursday saw another round of tariff warfare as both countries slapped additional tariffs on $16 billion worth of auto goods.
Mr. Trump acknowledged his tough trade policies during the Fox interview, saying the only reason China didn’t face tariffs sooner was so that he could secure its help with North Korea.
“And China’s been a big help with North Korea. I hope they continue to be,” he said.
Despite calling off the visit, Mr. Trump emphasized his relationship with Mr. Kim.
“I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim,” the president tweeted, “I look forward to seeing him soon!”
Mr. Trump announced right after meeting Mr. Kim at the Sinagpore summit in June that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat. Experts have since been skeptical of the country fulfilling its commitment.
After Mr. Pompeo’s third trip to the country in mid-July, North Korean officials expressed frustration with “gangster-like” American negotiations, though the secretary denied those comments and said the meeting was productive.
Throughout the visits and reports, Mr. Trump has consistently touted his relationship with Mr. Kim.
When the bodies of fallen American soldiers lost in the Korean War were returned to the U.S. at the beginning of August, Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Kim for the gesture and a “nice letter.” It was the second letter from the North Korean leader the president promoted.
“A letter to President Trump from Chairman Kim was received on Aug. 1,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “The ongoing correspondence between the two leaders is aimed at following up on their meeting in Singapore and advancing the commitments made in the U.S.-DPRK joint statement.”
In a odd kind of parallel to Mr. Trump’s warm words for Mr. Kim, North Korea’s state media in recent days has complained about what it called U.S. foot-dragging on the bilateral talks — while being careful to praise President Trump personally and absolve him of blame for the impasse.
“President Trump has a ‘dream,’ which is about achieving the epochal cause of improving North Korea-U.S. relations and establishing world peace, but he has too many enemies,” Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North Korean ruling party, said in an editorial Aug. 18, adding that Mr. Trump was being held back by critics in Congress, the press and even in his own administration.
“His administration and even his advisers are sleeping in the same bed with the president but dreaming different dreams,” the North Korean newspaper said. “They are speaking and acting in a way that is inconsistent with the president’s wish, and they are misleading facts to blur the president’s eyes and ears and steering him toward unintended decisions.”
In what was widely seen as a veiled swipe at hawkish White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, the editorial also urged Mr. Pompeo to “stick with his principles” against unnamed “factions” in order to “make the president’s wish come true.”