SALT LAKE CITY — Even before President Donald Trump announced Thursday he'd canceled his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, had questioned whether expectations for the meeting had gotten out of hand.
During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, Curtis asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo what was "reasonable" to expect from the June 12 meeting, suggesting anything short of world peace might be a disappointment.
Pompeo said the administration's goal was for the two leaders to agree on pursuing a complete denuclearization of North Korea. Curtis later told KSL a meeting could wait as long as the situation remained stable.
"I think we've gotten perhaps a little ahead of ourselves," Curtis said Wednesday. "I think at least myself and I think others have been a little concerned that things were actually moving so quickly that it was a little too good to be true."
On Thursday, Curtis, the newest member of Utah's congressional delegation, called for strong action to end North Korea's nuclear program despite the cancellation of the summit.
Curtis said in a statement he'll "continue to urge this administration to apply maximum pressure on Kim's regime — both economically and diplomatically — so that we may achieve a peaceful end to North Korea's nuclear program."
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, blamed the cancellation on North Korea failing to follow through on setting up the meeting that was to be held in Singapore, not "the tremendous anger and open hostility" cited by Trump in his letter to Kim.
The president, who has called Kim "Little Rocket Man," used those terms to describe what he referred to as only as the "most recent statement" from North Korean officials, apparently critical comments made about Vice President Mike Pence.
But Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that's not what derailed the summit even though he noted the North Koreans did not follow Trump's lead in toning down their rhetoric.
"In the last few weeks, while it was essential that they start working out the details of this meeting, north Korean negotiators just disappeared. They just haven't been engaged and, in fact, they've been almost incommunicado," he said.
Stewart, who said he hasn't lost hope that the two sides will get together, wasn't surprised the summit isn't happening.
"What I would have been surprised about is if this summit had gone off without some type of potential hiccup along the way," he said. Now the key to going forward is "to make it uncomfortable for the North Korean leadership" through sanctions.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the administration's efforts need to be supported.
"This is not about a deal but about achieving outcomes," Hatch said in a statement Thursday, noting Pompeo had expressed a similar sentiment.
"The talks with North Korea, if they do happen, will take place at the right time," Hatch said. "In the meantime, we should all stand behind our leaders as they pursue this sensitive diplomatic effort."
Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said it was "unfortunate" the historic, long-planned summit was called off.
"We all want peace, and I hope the administration can successfully navigate this difficult situation for the betterment of the world," Love said. "I remain hopeful that another U.S.-North Korea meeting can be scheduled in the future.”
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