February 28, 2019
President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Feb. 28, 2019, in Hanoi.
By Steve Herman, VOA’s White House Bureau Chief
HANOI, VIETNAM – U.S. President Donald Trump said his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended Thursday with no agreement because of a divide over the lifting of U.S. sanctions.
“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters at a closing press conference. “They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all the sanctions for that.”
Thursday’s meetings ended early with Trump and Kim skipping a planned lunch and signing ceremony.
Trump described the talks in Hanoi, Vietnam, as “productive” and said he thinks the two sides will eventually reach an agreement about denuclearization of North Korea with time.
Earlier in the day, both Trump and Kim expressed optimism for their discussions about North Korea’s nuclear program.
Kim left open the possibility of denuclearization, saying in response to a reporter’s question, “If I’m not willing to do that, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
When asked if he is willing to take concrete steps toward denuclearization, Kim said that is what was under discussion.
Trump said he thinks the relationship between the two sides is better than it has ever been.
“I think no matter what happens we’re going to ultimately have a deal that’s really good for Chairman Kim and his country and for us. I think ultimately that’s what’s going to happen,” Trump said.
Patience, lowered expectations
At the start of their talks Thursday, Trump expressed a position of patience when it comes to the nuclear talks with North Korea.
“What’s important is we get it right,” he said.
Trump predicted long term “fantastic success” when it comes to North Korea, saying the country will be “an economic powerhouse.”
While some U.S. officials attempted to lower expectations for the outcome of the second summit, Trump was under pressure to extract something beyond the vague commitment made by Kim last June in Singapore on pledging to give up his nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in exchange for a lifting of crushing international sanctions on the impoverished country.
The Singapore summit was hailed as a historical event as Washington and Pyongyang have never had diplomatic relations. When Trump took office there were fears of a renewed war with North Korea as the U.S. president threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on the northeast Asian country in response to its threats against the United States and its allies.
During their talks Thursday, both Trump and Kim also expressed a favorable view of the possibility of North Korea allowing the United States to open an office in Pyongyang.
“It’s actually not a bad idea,” Trump said, after the prospect was raised by a reporter.
“I think that’s something which is welcomeable,” Kim said.
SEE ALSO: Spy Chief Contradicts Trump’s Claims of Progress With North Korea
Some US skepticism
U.S. intelligence officials remain skeptical that Pyongyang intends to follow through on Kim’s Singapore pledge to denuclearize.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a congressional panel last month that North Korea “has halted its provocative behavior” by refraining from missile tests and nuclear tests for more than a year. “As well, Kim Jong Un continues to demonstrate openness to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Despite the end to testing, Coats cautioned that “we currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its (weapons of mass destruction) capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.”