South Korea, China and Japan woke up Friday to a new and uncertain diplomatic reality, after US President Donald Trump canceled what many considered to be the best chance of striking a deal for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
There has been a notable silence from Beijing.
Across the region, people worried about whether the tensions between the US and North Korea could escalate, while officials scrambled to respond to the new political landscape.
“Bungling this diplomacy could put the region at greater risk of conflict than ever before,” said Jean H. Lee, a North Korea expert at the US-based Wilson Center.
Confusion in Seoul
A photo taken during an emergency meeting in South Korea on Thursday night showed a grim-faced President Moon Jae-in discussing the announcement with his advisers.
Trump hadn’t notified the Blue House, South Korea’s Presidential office, of his plans to cancel the summit before the announcement was made, catching Moon by surprise.
In a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said her government was very disappointed the summit wasn’t going ahead.
According to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, Kang said the summit could have become a turning point in the bid for the complete denuclearization and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korean papers plastered the news across their front pages on Friday. Several called it a “strong move” by Trump.
But the unexpected decision will heighten the impression among South Koreans that the United States is an unreliable ally, Robert Kelly, professor of political science at South Korea’s Pusan National University, told CNN.
“It will drive the South Koreans and the Americans apart… Moon teed up what could have been one of the greatest deals in history and Trump blew it,” he said.
Kelly said that while Moon had perhaps pushed too hard for the meeting to take place, and had staked much of his reputation on its success, the South Koreans were more likely to blame the United States than their own president. “My concern is that South Korea will be so disgusted at Trump’s behavior we’ll have a really nasty patch of alliance politics,” he said.

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