Trump’s talks with Kim collapse after N Korea demands end to sanctions

Trump insisted his relations with Kim remained warm, but he did not commit to having a third summit with the North Korean leader,
Photo: US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader in Vietnam for the second summit.

HANOI: US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, abruptly ended their second summit meeting on Thursday when negotiations collapsed after the two sides failed to agree on even the first steps on nuclear disarmament, a peace declaration or reducing sanctions on the North.

“It was about the sanctions,” Trump said at a news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, referring to Kim’s demand that the US lift harsh economic sanctions imposed on North Korea with the approval of the United Nations.

“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.” “Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump said, adding, “I’d much rather do it right than do it fast. We’re in position to do something very special.”

Trump insisted his relations with Kim remained warm, but he did not commit to having a third summit with the North Korean leader, saying a possible next meeting “may not be for a long time.” For his part, Kim, when asked whether he was ready to denuclearise, had said, “If I’m not willing to do that I won’t be here right now.”

North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho said at a news conference later that North Korea had sought only a partial lifting of sanctions and had offered a realistic proposal at the summit.

He said that if the US partially removed sanctions, North Korea could permanently dismantle all production of plutonium and uranium under observation by US experts.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the North Korean foreign minister’s remarks.

The premature end to the negotiations means the diplomacy between the US and North Korea that has gone on for most of a year remains stalled, even as experts say North Korea continues to produce fissile material to make nuclear warheads.

It also undermines the image Trump has long cultivated of himself as a tough negotiator who can bring adversaries into a deal.

Trump said that Kim had agreed to take an important step toward dismantling a central part of his nuclear programme — the Yongbyon enrichment facility — but that Kim said he would do so only if all sanctions were lifted.

The president and secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the North would have to dismantle other parts of the programme before all sanctions were lifted.

 They added that the two sides would continue negotiations in other settings, and stressed that there were nuclear sites that American officials are aware of but that are unknown to the public.

 In response to a question, Trump also acknowledged that his administration was aware of a second enrichment site other than Yongbyon.

Trump had flown across the world to try to work face-to-face with Kim for the second time on the signature diplomatic initiative of his presidency, an effort to reduce what US officials regard as one of the world’s foremost nuclear threats.

Experts estimate that the North has 30 to 60 nuclear warheads and possibly a ballistic missile that can hit the continental US.

American officials have said that the sanctions are their main leverage with North Korea, and that keeping them tight is critical to the goal of full denuclearisation.

There was talk before Thursday that the Americans might allow more economic exchange between South Korea and the North as part of a deal, but that probably would have been as far as alleviation of sanctions would have gone at this point.

The first sign of the collapse of the talks came after morning meetings, when White House officials said a lunchtime meeting and signing ceremony had been cancelled.

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