The Hanoi summit came eight months after Trump and Kim met for the first time in Singapore and agreed to establish new relations and peace in exchange for a North Korean commitment to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, AFP reported.
After the meeting, Trump said two days of talks had made good progress but it was important not to rush into a bad deal. He said he had walked away because of unacceptable North Korean demands.
“It was all about the sanctions,” Trump told a news conference after the talks were cut short. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”
But in a rare late-night press briefing, the North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Hosaid said Pyongyang had only wanted some of the measures eased, and that its proposal to close “all the nuclear production facilities” at its Yongbyon complex was its best and final offer.
“This is the biggest denuclearization step we can take based on the current level of trust between the two countries,” Ri said, according to Reuters.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told the briefing she had the impression that Kim “might lose his willingness to pursue a deal” after the US side rejected a partial lifting of sanctions in return for the destruction of Yongbyon, “something we had never offered before.”
“Having conducted the talks this time, it occurs to us that there may not be a need to continue,” she said, adding that North Korea had taken “many steps” to try to reach a deal.
“We’re doing a lot of thinking,” she said while adding that the situation would change, “if our demands can be resolved.”
But despite raising that doubt, both sides have indicated they wanted to maintain the momentum and press on.
The outcome in Hanoi fell far short of the pre-meeting expectations and hopes, after critics said their initial historic meeting in Singapore – which produced only a vague commitment from Kim to work “toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” – was more style over substance.
According to senior US officials, in the week leading up to the Hanoi summit the North Koreans had demanded the lifting of effectively all the UN Security Council economic sanctions imposed on Pyongyang since March 2016.
Before that date, the measures were largely focused on preventing technology transfers but more recent restrictions apply to several lucrative industries – coal and iron ore, seafood and textiles, among others – in an effort to force concessions from Pyongyang.
“It was basically all the sanctions except for armaments,” a senior US official told reporters. “It tallies up to the tune of many, many billions of dollars.”
In return, Pyongyang was only offering to close “a portion of the Yongbyon complex,” a sprawling site covering multiple different facilities – and the North is believed to have other uranium enrichment plants.
Kim began a two-day official visit to Vietnam on Friday, while in Manila, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters: “We are anxious to get back to the table so we can continue that conversation that will ultimately lead to peace and stability.”
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said on Friday that Seoul will work with the US and North Korea to ensure they reach agreement on denuclearization.
“My administration will closely communicate and cooperate with the United States and North Korea so as to help their talks reach a complete settlement by any means,” Moon said in a speech in the South Korean capital.
Trump faces more political headwinds
President Donald Trump embarked on his trip to Vietnam with a political cloud hanging over his head and keen to show progress on a thorny foreign policy issue that has befuddled many of his predecessors.
Now, he is just back from a Hanoi summit with North Korea that collapsed and the cloud has grown darker, Reuters reported.
While Trump’s much-hyped meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un broke up in disagreement over sanctions linked to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, testimony from his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who accused him of breaking the law while in office, represented a potentially damaging development for the president at home.
Trump faced challenges on other fronts: Sensitive talks with China over a trade deal, a slow-rolling crisis in Venezuela, tensions between India and Pakistan, and an attempt in Congress to kill his emergency declaration aimed at securing funding for a wall on the border with Mexico.
US Special Counsel Robert Mueller may also end his probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election in a matter of days – ensuring that speculation about the role of Trump and his campaign will keep making headlines.
While at the summit, Trump cut the talks about North Korea’s denuclearization short and the two sides gave conflicting accounts of what happened, raising doubts about the future of one of Trump’s signature initiatives.
The White House had included a signing ceremony for a deal on Trump’s public schedule in Hanoi – and then abruptly canceled it.
As the summit unfolded, Trump kept up to date with Cohen’s testimony from his suite at a Hanoi hotel despite the 12-hour time difference.
The Cohen testimony raised questions among Trump allies about his re-election campaign’s ability to organize a proper response.
“Where’s the defense of the president?” former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump friend, told ABC’s “This Week” program on Wednesday.