WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump abruptly ended a long-planned summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on Thursday, acknowledging the two leaders did not reach an agreement that accomplished the U.S. goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump told a news conference in Hanoi that was moved up by several hours and took place in the middle of the night in the United States.
Here are key takeaways from Trump’s two-day summit with Kim in Vietnam.
No deal on nukes
Trump began his second summit with Kim with an eye toward “denuclearization,” but one major sticking point between the two sides centered on what that term means. The White House had initially scheduled what it called a “signing ceremony” for Thursday, but Trump indicated Kim had not met U.S. expectations for a commitment to dismantling his nuclear program. The ceremony was canceled and Trump moved up a scheduled press conference by two hours. He then departed Vietnam ahead of schedule.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he wished Trump and the negotiators “could have gotten a little bit further” with Kim.
“We asked him to do more. He was unprepared to do that,” Pompeo told reporters.
For now, status quo
In the days before the meeting in Vietnam, Trump indicated he was eager to lift U.S. sanctions that have crippled the North Korean economy. He held out the “tremendous” economic potential for North Korea if it bent to U.S. demands. But as the meeting concluded Thursday, Trump said Kim had not offered enough to justify lifting the sanctions and said they would stay in place. Trump also said he expected Kim would continue to put nuclear and missile testing on hold. North Korea last tested a missile – an ICBM capable of reaching the United States – in late 2017.
Looming Michael Cohen
Trump’s meeting with North Korea was closely watched around the world, but in the United States it was overshadowed by his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who called Trump a “con man” and a “racist” in extraordinary testimony before a House committee Wednesday. Trump was repeatedly asked about Cohen during the summit, and he acknowledged he watched some of Cohen’s remarks from Vietnam. White House aides hoped to keep the focus on Trump’s diplomatic efforts, but the president tweeted criticism of Cohen early in the summit. And he returned to the issue in a press conference Thursday. “It was pretty shameful, I think,” Trump said.
Trump said Kim “didn’t know” about U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier, the college student from Ohio who died in 2017 after being imprisoned in North Korea. The president, who has faced criticism for not pressing Kim more forcefully on human rights, said he asked about Warmbier but said he believed North Korea’s authoritarian leader wasn’t aware of what had happened to the U.S. student. “I don’t believe he knew about it,” Trump said of Kim. “He tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.” Warmbier was released to his parents in June 2017 in a coma with a massive brain injury and died days afterward.
When Trump left his first summit with Kim in Singapore last year, he was eager to discuss plans for another meeting. There was even speculation that Kim might travel to Washington. In a sign that the impasse in Vietnam was not likely to give way to progress anytime soon, Trump shot down a question about the possibility of a third meeting. “We’ll see if it happens,” Trump said. “I have not committed.”
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