Vietnam summit: US president blames disagreement over sanctions for no deal

01-Mar-2019 Intellasia | The Guardian | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Donald Trump has said that a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un broke down over the issue of sanctions, after the talks in Vietnam ended early with no deal.

“It was about the sanctions basically,” Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi. “They wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that… Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”

The US president said that Kim had offered to dismantle some parts of his nuclear infrastructure, including the Yongbyon nuclear complex, but was not prepared to destroy other parts of the programme, including covert uranium plants.

“There is a gap. We have to have sanctions,” Trump said. “They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas we wanted but we couldn’t give up all the sanctions for that.”

Trump said there was no plan for a third summit but made clear that the current status quo would continue, with North Korea continuing to suspend nuclear and missile tests, while the US would not take part in joint military exercises with South Korea, which the US president said he was opposed to anyway.

“I gave that up quite a while ago because it costs us $100 million to do it. I hated to see it. I thought it was unfair,” Trump said, saying South Korea should shoulder more of the costs. “Exercising is fun and it’s nice they play their war games. I’m not saying its not necessary. On some levels it is. On other levels it’s not.”

Although he said another summit with Kim might not happen “for a long time”, Trump remained defensive of the North Korean leader and the relationship between the two men.

“We spent all day with Kim Jong-un,” Trump said. “He’s quite a guy and quite a character. And our relationship is very strong.”

He even defended Kim over the death of US student Otto Warmbier, who had been sent back home from North Korea seriously ill in June 2017.

“He says he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word,” Trump said, adding that North Korea was a big country and: “Those prisons are rough. They’re rough places and bad things happen.”

Trump gave a detailed public account to date of the central disagreements that have dogged the negotiations. He confirmed that the US side had confronted the North Koreans with the existence of covert nuclear facilities outside Yongbyon and demanded they be put on the negotiating table.

“They were surprised we knew,” he said.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said that the breakdown of talks was partly caused by differences over the sequences of nuclear disarmament and sanctions relief.

The press conference came after a scheduled lunch and signing ceremony for the expected joint statement were both cancelled at short notice, as Trump and Kim left the summit venue and returned to their separate Hanoi hotels.

“The two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearisation and economic-driven concepts,” Sarah Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, said in a written statement. “No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future.”

A Trump media conference was brought forward two hours, and journalists accompanying the US president were told to get ready to board Air Force One for the flight back to Washington.

Signs of trouble at the second Trump-Kim summit appeared earlier on Thursday when Trump played down expectations of any kind of agreement in the Vietnam capital and urged the focus to be on longer term relations between the two leaders and the two countries.

The demeanour of both leaders as they sat in Hanoi’s Metropole Hotel was largely sombre even though both professed to hopeful about future ties.

“I’m sure over the years we’ll be together a lot, and I think we’ll also be together after the fact, meaning after the deal is made. We had very good discussions last night at dinner, and the pre-dinner was very good. And, there were a lot of great ideas being thrown about,” Trump said.

“So, I can’t speak necessarily for today, but I can say that this, a little bit longer term, and over a period of time, I know we’re going to have a fantastic success with respect to Chair Kim and North Korea.”

Asked whether he was confident about the prospects for a deal, Kim replied: “Well, it’s too early to tell, but I wouldn’t say that I’m pessimistic. From what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come out.”

The response marked the first time the 35-year-old dictator has ever been known to reply to a question from a foreign journalist. He later answered a few more impromptu questions. He asked whether he was willing to “denuclearise”

“If I was not, I wouldn’t be here.” Kim smiled. Potus chimed in: “That might be the best answer you’ve ever heard.”

However, for the North Korean regime, “denuclearise” is a vague term referring to long term multilateral disarmament and reduction in tensions, rather than a unilateral pledge to disarm.

On both days of the Hanoi meeting, Trump has repeatedly stressed the importance of maintaining good personal relations between the leaders, and the fact that North Korea has stuck to its moratorium on nuclear and missile testing since late 2017.

Since the first summit in Singapore in June last year, Trump and his administration had claimed they were on the brink of a historic breakthrough in persuading North Korea to disarm, going beyond the agreements forged by former US presidents.

But Trump’s remarks represented a recalibration of expectations about substance and speed.

“No rush. No rush,” he insisted. “We just want to do the right deal. Chair Kim and myself, we want to do the right deal. Speed is not important. What’s important is that we do the right deal. Thank you all very much.”


Category: Regional

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