President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un abruptly cut short their two-day summit in Hanoi Thursday after the two leaders failed to reach an agreement to dismantle that country’s nuclear weapons.
Although Kim said he was ready in principle to denuclearize, his talks with Trump collapsed unexpectedly as the two men and their delegations departed their meeting site in Vietnam’s capital city without sitting for a planned lunch and or participating in a signing ceremony.
Trump said he felt he had to “walk” from the negotiating table, in part because Kim wanted the United States to lift economic sanctions on North Korea in their entirety.
“It was about the sanctions,” the president said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that.”
For Trump, the surprising turn of events amounted to a diplomatic failure after he had hoped his second summit with Kim, following their meeting last summer in Singapore, would produce demonstrable progress toward North Korea’s denuclearization.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “I wish we could have gotten a little bit further,” but added that he was optimistic about the progress that was been made simply by meeting.
Sitting beside Kim on Thursday morning, Trump said the pair had enjoyed very good discussions over dinner the night before, with “a lot of great ideas being thrown about,” adding that “importantly, I think the relationship is, you know, just very strong. And when you have a good relationship, a lot of good things happen.”
Asked if he was confident the pair would reach a deal, Kim was equally guarded. “It’s too early to tell. I won’t prejudge,” Kim said in reply to the question from a Washington Post reporter, a rare response from a North Korean leader to an independent journalist. “From what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come.”
White House aides have said the president is determined to sell Kim on a vision of modernization and present him with a choice between continued isolation or burgeoning economic growth if he gives up the North’s nuclear weapons program.
Both Kim and Trump also said they would welcome the idea of opening a U.S. liaison office in the North Korean capital. Washington does not have direct diplomatic representation in Pyongyang.