President Trump cut short his summit with Kim Jong Un on Thursday, rejecting the North Korean leader’s offer to dismantle a major nuclear complex in exchange for the removal of U.S. economic sanctions.
Trump said the U.S. wanted more concessions from Kim and that talks would continue. But the president wouldn’t commit to holding a third summit after two high-profile meetings have failed to produce a concrete agreement on rolling back North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Trump said two days of talks in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi had made good progress in building relations and on the key issue of denuclearization, but it was important not to rush into a bad deal.
“It was all about the sanctions,” Trump said at a news conference after the talks were cut short. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”
The United Nations and the United States ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea when the reclusive state undertook a series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests in 2017, cutting off its main sources hard cash.
Both Trump and Kim left the venue of their talks, the French-colonial-era Metropole hotel, without attending a planned lunch together.
“Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times,” Trump said, adding “it was a friendly walk”.
Failure to reach an agreement marks a setback for Trump, a self-styled dealmaker under pressure at home over his ties to Russia and testimony from Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer who accused him of breaking the law while in office.
Asked about Cohen’s testimony at the news conference, Trump said his former confidant “lied a lot.”
“I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing,” Trump said.
Trump indicated that Kim was willing to agree to dismantle Yongbyon, a sprawling nuclear complex that includes North Korea’s only plutonium reactor as well as facilities to produce highly enriched uranium.
But in exchange, Trump said, Kim wanted U.S. sanctions “lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”
The collapse of the talks will also raise questions about the Trump administration’s preparations and about what some critics see as his cavalier style of diplomacy on the fly.
In his last tweet he was grateful for the hospitality he received in Vietnam:
THANK YOU to our generous hosts in Hanoi this week: President Trong, Prime Minister Phuc, and the wonderful people of Vietnam! pic.twitter.com/AMqF0dfRhP— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2019