HANOI - United States President Donald Trump on Thursday (Feb 28) said he had a “productive time” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his talks in Hanoi on the North’s denuclearisation but that they had failed to reach an agreement due to the North's demand that the US-led sanctions on Pyongyang be lifted.
The second day of the talks with Mr Kim on North Korea’s nuclear programme in the Vietnamese capital was abruptly cut short by two hours, with the discussions ending without an agreement.
“We had a productive two days but sometimes you have to walk and this is just one of those times,” Mr Trump told reporters at the JW Marriott hotel, where he and his delegation are staying during the summit.
“It was about the sanctions. Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Mr Trump said. "They were willing to denuke large portions but we couldn't give up all sanctions for that."
He said Mr Kim had offered to dismantle the North's main Yongbyon nuclear test site but that “it wasn’t enough”. He added that the US side had told the North they had discovered other additional secret nuclear sites, something which he said Mr Kim's side was surprised to learn.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the offer was not adequate, as the North would still be in the possession of missiles and warheads even if the Yongbyon site was dismantled.
Mr Pompeo also said that the US side had asked Mr Kim to do more, without specifying what the US demands were, but that Mr Kim was "unprepared to do that". "We just felt it wasn’t appropriate to sign an agreement today," he said.
He said both sides would continue to work on what they had discussed during the Hanoi meetings. "We're certainly closer today than we were six hours ago, and a month or two before that. The departure was with an agreement that we would continue to work on it," he added.
Responding to a reporter's question on whether a third round of talks would take place, Mr Trump said he had not yet agreed to another summit with Mr Kim.
Mr Trump said that despite the failure to produce an agreement, the talks had ended amicably and both men shook hands before they left the meeting. "The relationship was warm and when we walked away, it was a very friendly walk."
On whether it was premature to hold the summit when things had not yet been tied down, Mr Trump said a deal was possible but the US was also prepared to walk from the meeting.
“I could have signed an agreement today and then you people would have said, ‘oh, what a terrible deal,”’ he said. “But it’s better to do it right than do it fast.”
Despite failing to reach a deal, Mr Kim vowed not to resume nuclear or ballistic missile testing, said Mr Trump.
He also defended the lack of an agreement, saying the effort to push North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons had been "going on for many decades". "This should've been resolved during many presidential runs," he said.
The talks had concluded with both leaders leaving the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel at about 2.25pm Singapore time to return to their hotels following their morning meeting.
The talks, which began at 10am, had been due to end at 1pm for a working lunch. They had been expected to sign a joint agreement after the lunch.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later issued a statement saying that no agreement was reached but that the teams looked forward to meeting sometime in the future.
“The two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearisation and economic-driven concepts,” Ms Sanders said in the statement.
Mr Trump had earlier downplayed hopes for a breakthrough at the start of the summit with Mr Kim.
“Speed’s not that important to me,” Mr Trump said as the pair sat down for talks at the Metropole hotel in Hanoi. “No rush. We just want to do the right deal.”
Mr Kim said in introductory remarks in Korean that he was willing to do “all my best to bring a good result ultimately”.
In response to questions, Mr Kim said he would not be at the summit if he was not willing to denuclearise, and said that the US and North Korea establishing respective diplomatic offices in each other’s countries would be a “welcome idea”, without committing to it.
The summit comes eight months after Mr Trump and Mr Kim first met in Singapore last June for talks that ended with a broad statement by both sides to work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, with little progress seen since then.