Trump-Kim summit ends early with no deal

February 28, 2019

HANOI, Vietnam President Trump’s denuclearization summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended Thursday without an agreement, cutting short two days of talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s weapons program.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump said. “And this was just one of those times.”

The president said he refused Mr. Kim’s demand to lift all sanctions against North Korea.

“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” he said. “They were willing to give us areas, but not the ones we wanted.”

Mr. Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi that he wants to lift sanctions off North Korea “so badly,” but cannot take that step until Mr. Kim agrees to fully dismantle his weapons program.

“You always have to be prepared to walk. I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” he said.

He said Mr. Kim’s offer to abandon one large nuclear production facility wasn’t enough, because the U.S. has evidence of many more sites.

“That facility, while very big, wasn’t enough to do what we are doing,” Mr. Trump said. “We had to have more than that. We brought many points up that I think they were surprised that we knew.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been closely involved in the talks, expressed disappointment at the abbreviated summit.

“I wish we could have gotten a little bit further,” he said. “We hoped we could do just a little bit better.”

But he said he’s still optimistic about “a really good outcome” later on.

“No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

She said the two leaders had “very good and constructive meetings” in Hanoi and “discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts.”

But ending the summit without a planned joint agreement on any of the issues discussed clearly fell short of expectations for the high-stakes meeting. Negotiators on both sides had spent months in talks leading up to the summit, trying to pave the way for an agreement that also could have included a declaration to formally end the Korean war or the opening of a U.S. liaison office in Pyongyang.

After having a friendly dinner Wednesday night in Hanoi and talks that Mr. Trump described as “very good,” the discussions rapidly fell apart Thursday.

The two leaders canceled a formal working lunch, and the White House soon announced a “schedule change.” The joint signing ceremony with both leaders was canceled.

The second summit between the two men began with smiles and handshakes Wednesday as Mr. Trump sought more clarity from the North Korean leader on the steps he would be willing to take to dismantle his nuclear weapons program. They had started that process at a breakthrough summit in Singapore last June.

Mr. Trump had been lowering expectations for the second round of talks, cautioning the media that he was in “no rush” to get a comprehensive agreement as long as Mr. Kim continued to honor his pledge not to conduct any more missile tests.

Asked if he was serious about giving up his weapons program, Mr. Kim had said, “If I was not, I wouldn’t be here.”

Another reporter asked if he was willing to take concrete steps to denuclearize. Mr. Kim said: “That’s what we are discussing right now.”

The president repeated his cautions earlier Thursday, saying, “No matter what happens we’ll ultimately have a deal that’s really good for Chairman Kim and his country.”

“That’s where it’s all leading,” Mr. Trump predicted. “It doesn’t mean we’re doing it in one day, in one meeting. .. I really believe with this great leadership North Korea, I really believe it’s going to be very successful.”

But the president also emphasized, “We just want to do the right deal. Chairman Kim and myself, we want to do the right deal. Speed is not important. What’s important is that we do the right deal.”

Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Obama, said on Twitter of the development, “Trump has held three major summits - Singapore, Helsinki, and Hanoi - with two autocratic enemies of the United States, Kim Jong Un and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and struck out 3 times. Hoping 4th big summit produces better results ... any positive results!”