Trump-Kim summit breaks down after North Korea demands end to sanctions

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A summit between Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without agreement after the US refused North Korean demands for sanctions relief, the US president has said.

“It was all about the sanctions,” Mr Trump told reporters. “They wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that.”

The pair had been expected to announce progress on denuclearisation.

“Sometimes you have to walk and this was one of those times,” Mr Trump said.

Speaking at a news conference after the summit, in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, Mr Trump said no plans had been made for a third summit, but he expressed optimism about a “good outcome” in the future.

And on his flight back to the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was very hopeful that officials from both sides could resume talks before too long.

The original White House programme for the day had planned for a “joint agreement signing ceremony” as well as a working lunch for the two leaders, but expectations were abruptly dashed with the cancellation of both.

What were the sticking points?

According to Mr Trump, Mr Kim made a significant offer – to dismantle all of the Yongbyon complex, the research and production facility at the heart of North Korea’s nuclear programme. But in return Mr Kim wanted all sanctions on North Korea lifted, something the US was not prepared to offer.

There was also a question over the network of facilities that extend beyond Yongbyon. Last month, Stephen Biegun, the US state department special representative for North Korea, said North Korea had committed in pre-summit talks to destroy all of the nation’s plutonium- and uranium-enrichment facilities, dependent on unspecified US measures in return.

Yongbyon is North Korea’s only known source of plutonium but the country is believed to have at least two other facilities where uranium is enriched.

Those unspecified US measures appear now to have been complete sanctions relief, which Mr Trump would not offer. The US president also suggested in his news conference that Mr Kim had offered only the destruction of Yongbyon and not North Korea’s entire nuclear apparatus.

The president said that when he raised the issue of a second enrichment facility apart from Yongbyon, the North Korean delegation was “surprised” by what the US knew.

Is this a setback for Trump?

The first summit between the two leaders, which took place in Singapore in June 2018, was criticised for having produced little in terms of substance, leading to anticipation that Mr Trump would push at the summit in Hanoi to produce an agreement on denuclearisation.

The failure will be viewed as a setback for self-styled deal-maker Mr Trump, who has talked up his historic rapprochement with Mr Kim as a significant policy achievement.

Some saw the president’s decision to not agree a deal as a good move.

“From Mr Trump’s perspective it will be a loss he can weather,” Andray Abrahamian, a North Korea expert at Stanford University, wrote in a column for the BBC. “A ‘bad deal’ in which he gave away a lot would inspire years of debate and pushback from US foreign-policy elites. With this, he’s spun it as saveable through working-level talks.”

The summit came as Mr Trump was facing increased scrutiny at home in the US over his business dealings and alleged ties to Russia, after his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen testified before Congress on Wednesday.

 

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