President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to reach a nuclear agreement during their second summit, which was abruptly cut short in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters following his negotiations with Kim, Trump said there were two sticking points that had made a deal “inappropriate” at this time. Kim wanted sanctions to be “lifted in their entirety and we wouldn’t do that,” the president said.
Trump added that while Kim had offered to “denuke a large area that we wanted,” including the Yongbyon site, the North Korean leader was not willing to meet U.S. demands to dismantle a number of other nuclear facilities, including a second uranium enrichment site.
Trump’s remarks followed an unexpected change in the summit’s schedule. The two leaders had planned to have a working lunch before partaking in a joint signing ceremony at around 2 p.m. local time. But the White House announced around midday that both events would be canceled. A scheduled press conference with Trump was pushed up by about two hours.
Appearing alongside Trump at the press conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. and North Korea had made “real progress” in Hanoi despite the breakdown in negotiations. Pompeo added that the two sides were attempting to unravel an “incredibly difficult problem” and said negotiations would continue “in the weeks ahead.”
Trump said his meeting with Kim had ended amicably. It was a “very friendly” parting, the president said, noting that he and Kim share a “warmth” which he hoped will continue.
Although analysts had warned that Trump and Kim’s second meeting could conclude without a substantial agreement — much like their first in Singapore ― there had initially been talk of the U.S. opening diplomatic channels with Pyongyang or even declaring an end to the Korean War.
Earlier on Thursday, Kim stressed that he remained open to denuclearization, although the North has never committed to a definition of what that would entail. In December, the country’s state-run news agency said Pyongyang would not rid itself of nuclear weapons unless the United States dismantled its own nuclear network, which could reach the Korean peninsula.
However, Kim insisted that denuclearization was still on the table, hence his appearance in Vietnam.
“If I’m not willing to do that, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Kim said.
When a Washington Post reporter asked Kim about a potential deal, he said he remained optimistic about the ultimate outcome of the summit.
“From what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come,” Kim said.
In the lead-up to the summit, Trump downplayed any demands the U.S. would impose upon the North. The move stood in sharp contrast with the harsh rhetoric Trump used before his summit with Kim in Singapore last year, after which he trumpeted that Pyongyang would denuclearize and ultimately rid itself of its nuclear arsenal.
The president played down those commitments once again on Wednesday before a one-on-one dinner with Kim.
“We had a very successful first summit. I felt it was very successful, and some people would like to see it go quicker,” Trump said. “I’m satisfied; you’re satisfied. We want to be happy with what we’re doing. But I thought the first summit was a great success. And I think this one, hopefully, will be equal or greater than the first.”
Pompeo has struggled to meet any of the expectations set in Singapore, and diplomatic efforts appeared to stall at the end of last year. The U.S. and North Korea will still have to agree on what, exactly, “complete denuclearization” means for Kim. Experts have said the only acceptable pathway forward would include outside weapons inspectors.