Print By Dave Boyer – The Washington Times – Updated: 5:16 a.m. on Thursday, February 28, 2019 HANOI, Vietnam — President Trump’s second denuclearization summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fell apart Thursday in a dispute over lifting economic sanctions, cutting short two days of talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s weapons program. After several…
After several hours of discussions, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim abruptly parted ways over North Korea’s demand that the U.S. lift crushing sanctions in exchange for something less than the full dismantling of all Pyongyang’s weapons sites.
“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi. “They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we want, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that.”
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Mr. Trump added, “Sometimes you have to walk. And this was just one of those times. I’d much rather do it right than do it fast.”
The collapse of the talks without any agreement was a disappointment, after months of high-level negotiations since the two leaders’ breakthrough summit last June in Singapore. Mr. Kim pledged at that first meeting to denuclearize, but since then he has resisted accepting the U.S. definition of complete and verifiable eradication of his weapons.
The international sanctions limit North Korea’s ability to import oil, and to sell its chief export, coal. Mr. Trump has held the sanctions tightly as his primary leverage in negotiations.
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The president said Mr. Kim was willing to allow the destruction of his largest nuclear fuel-enrichment facility in Yongbyon, but the North Korean leader wouldn’t make any concessions beyond that.
“He wants the sanctions [lifted] for that,” Mr. Trump said. “As you know, there’s plenty left after that. I just felt it wasn’t good.”
He said the U.S. has evidence of many more nuclear weapons sites, and negotiators made that clear to the North Koreans during the talks this week.
Mr. Trump said. “We had to have more than that. We brought many points up that I think they were surprised that we knew.”
The Vietnam summit had started out well enough, with Mr. Trump emphasizing the “economic powerhouse” that North Korea could become if sanctions were lifted. He pointed to the “thriving” Communist Vietnam as the economic model.
The two leaders met for dinner with smiles and handshakes Wednesday night at the Metropole hotel, site of the summit, and Mr. Trump called Mr. Kim “my friend.”
But the talks quickly fell apart Thursday morning. Around lunchtime, the White House announced a “schedule change,” and the leaders’ planned working luncheon was canceled.
That was followed shortly by the cancelation of a scheduled joint signing ceremony. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered the news that the talks had ended without any agreement.
“No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future,” Mrs. Sanders said.
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 joint agreement clearly fell short of the administration’s own 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.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been closely involved in the talks, expressed disappointment over 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.
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 Barack 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!”
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