President Donald Trump on Friday announced on Twitter that he had asked his secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to cancel a planned trip to North Korea because there had not been enough progress in denuclearization talks so far.
Trump’s tweets also indicated that he holds China responsible in part for the lack of progress. “I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were,” Trump wrote, and claimed the shortage of help was “because of our much tougher Trading stance with China.”
The Trump administration is currently engaged in an escalating trade war with China that was launched earlier this summer, when the president announced unilateral tariffs on Chinese imports. China responded by imposing retaliatory tariffs on American products, which prompted Trump to announce that even more tariffs would be put in place.
The latest round of tariffs went into effect this week, despite negotiations that were held in Washington between the U.S. and China aimed at resolving the crisis, which has roiled international markets.
Trump said in his tweets Friday that talks with North Korea would be put on hold until trade issues with China were resolved. The State Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
In addition to the escalating trade war with China, Trump’s decision Friday likely also reflects his reportedly growing frustration with the media coverage of his administration’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea, which have so far achieved little progress.
A new report this week from the the International Atomic Energy Agency said the IAEA had “grave concern” over what it called “the continuation and further development of the DPRK’s [North Korea’s] nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK.”
Evidence strongly suggests that North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear capabilities, despite a joint statement in June from Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, who met at a summit in Singapore, to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
The decision to cancel Pompeo’s trip appears to have been made abruptly, coming just a day after Pompeo announced it would happen. It also came after Trump had reportedly sent a letter to Kim last week, urging him to stop taking steps that threaten to erase the diplomatic goodwill created by the Singapore summit.
The cancellation also raises questions about what the State Department’s newly appointed special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is expected to do next.
On Thursday, Pompeo called Biegun’s appointment “a very timely moment for Steve to join the team and come on board,” because “he and I will be traveling to North Korea next week to make further diplomatic progress towards our objective.”
— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.