US-North Korea summit with Trump, Kim cut short in Vietnam
Vietnam News Agency/Handout/Getty Images(HANOI, Vietnam) — President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un concluded their second summit in Vietnam in an apparent stalemate, with Trump announcing U.S. negotiators walked away over North Korea’s insistence that it relax some sanctions before full dismantlement of the country’s nuclear program.
Trump and Kim met at the historic Metropole Hotel in downtown Hanoi, which is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, after a brief one-on-one meeting Wednesday and an hour and a half-long dinner with their top aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Trump touted the two days of meetings as “productive” and downplayed any deterioration in his personal rapport with the young leader, who he said committed to not carry out any further nuclear or missile tests as negotiations continued.
“You always have to be prepared to walk,” Trump said at a press conference. “I could have 100 percent signed something today. We actually had papers ready to be signed, but it was not appropriate. I would rather do it right. I would rather do it right than fast.”
As he prepares to return to major political headwinds back in Washington, Trump dismissed the bombshell testimony of his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen as ‘fake’ and attacked Democrats for holding the hearing while he was seeking a nuclear agreement.
Here’s how the day unfolded:
3:51 a.m. (EST) – Trump departs Hanoi, Vietnam
The president has departed Hanoi, Vietnam. He is headed back to the United States, following his second summit with North Korea’s leader.
“I am about to get on a plane and fly back to a wonderful place called Washington, D.C., ” Trump said, with a hint of sarcasm, at the end of his roughly 40-minute-long press conference.
The president was originally scheduled to depart two hours later, but the cancellation of a signing ceremony with Kim moved up the travel schedule.
Based on the shift in his schedule, Trump was expected to arrive in Washington late Thursday evening, following a refueling stop at a yet-to-be disclosed location.
2:55 a.m. (EST) – Trump says he has confronted Kim about Otto Warmbier’s death, but believes Kim’s denials of responsibility
Trump told reporters in Vietnam that in his meetings with Kim he confronted the leader about Otto Warmbier. The 21-year-old American student was arrested and imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year. He died after returning to the U.S. in a state of unresponsive wakefulness, according to his family.
However, the president signaled that he believed Kim didn’t share any personal responsibility in Warmbier’s death.
“I really believe something very bad happened to him and I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it,” Trump said. “I did speak about it and I don’t believe that [Kim] would have allowed that to happen. Just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen.”
Trump added that Kim “felt badly” about Warmbier’s death and described North Korea’s prison system — condemned around the world, by multiple human rights groups — as “rough places.”
“You got a lot of people, it’s a big country, a lot of people,” Trump said. “And in those prisons and those camps you have a lot of people and some really bad things happened to Otto, some really, really bad things. But he tells me he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word.”
The White House has said in the past that the talks between Kim and Trump were focused almost solely on denuclearization, rather than the issue of North Korea’s human rights record.
The moment is likely to stir significant controversy, similar to Trump’s statement in Helsinki last year accepting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials of interference in the 2016 U.S. election, as well as his acceptance of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rejection of responsibility for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
2:49 a.m. (EST) – Trump downplays breakdown in talks, says Kim told him nuclear testing ‘will not start’ up again
During his press conference, the president dismissed the idea that the breakdown of his talks with Kim meant their relationship has soured. He said Kim has committed to him that nuclear and missile tests will not restart, despite no agreement being reached.
“He said the testing will not start,” Trump said. “He said he is not going to do testing of rockets or missiles or anything having to do with nuclear.”
Trump again heaped praise on the young leader, continuing the trend of emphasizing his personal relationship with Kim even amid the stalled talks.
“We just like each other,” Trump said. “We have a good relationship. It’s a totally different system to put it mildly but we like each other.”
Trump said a sticking point in the negotiations came over the U.S. demands that North Korea dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear enrichment facility, which Kim wouldn’t agree to unless sanctions were relaxed on the country.
“We had to have more than that,” Trump said. “We brought many points up that I think they were surprised we knew, but we had to do more than just the one level, because if we did the one level and gave up all that leverage that has taken a long time to build.”
2:24 a.m. (EST) – Trump slams ‘fake’ Cohen hearing: ‘He lied about a lot’
Trump offered his first reaction to the congressional testimony by his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen during a press conference in Hanoi, labeling Cohen as a “liar” and hitting Democrats for holding the hearing during his summit with Kim.
“I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing,” Trump said.
When asked by ABC News’ Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl about the allegations leveled by Cohen against him, Trump said Cohen was “incorrect” to call him a “liar,” “a con-man” and a “racist.”
“He lied a lot,” Trump said. “But it was very interesting because he didn’t lie about one thing, he said, ‘no collusion with the Russian hoax.’ I said, ‘I wonder why he didn’t lie about that too like everything else?'”
“I was a little impressed by that, frankly,” Trump said.
2:18 a.m. (EST) – Trump explains North Korea summit ending without an agreement: ‘Sometimes you have to walk’
At a press conference prior to his departure from Hanoi, Trump explained why his second summit with Kim resulted in no signed agreement between the two countries as previously planned.
“We thought, and I thought, and Secretary Pompeo felt that it wasn’t a good thing to be signing anything,” Trump said. “Sometimes you have to walk. This was just one of those times.”
Pompeo went on to explain that Kim was “unprepared” to go as far in the agreement as the U.S. had wanted, but that negotiating teams would continue to convene in the “days and weeks ahead” to resolve their differences.
Trump acknowledged the break down was due to North Korea’s demands that sanctions be lifted in exchange for steps towards denuclearization, which would amount to a departure from longstanding U.S. policy that no sanctions be lifted before North Korea completely dismantles its nuclear program.
“It was about the sanctions,” Trump said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that.”
1:40 a.m. (EST) – White House says ‘no agreement’ reached between Trump and Kim as talks are cut short
Trump has returned to his hotel after negotiations with Kim were cut short. The White House announced that “no agreement” was reached between the two leaders despite “very good and constructive meetings.”
“The two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future.”
Reporters were informed just an hour earlier that a previously scheduled ‘Joint Agreement Signing Ceremony’ was cancelled altogether, along with a photo-opportunity of a working lunch between the two delegations.
The shortened talks appeared to catch the White House off guard, with the announcement coming after the press office had already sent reporters a menu for the lunch that was inevitably cancelled.
Trump in recent days has seemed to lower expectations for in terms of announcing any concrete steps towards North Korea’s denuclearization, though he hailed the talks as “productive” during a photo-op earlier in the day with Kim.
Prior to his departure from Hanoi, Trump was expected to provide updates on the summit and will likely take questions on his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s bombshell congressional testimony when he holds a press conference around 2 a.m. E.T.
12:48 a.m. (EST) – White House announces ‘change of plans’
After a significant delay in what was supposed to be a photo-op of the “working lunch” between the U.S. and North Korean delegations, Sanders informed reporters of a significant change of plans.
Sanders told reporters that the day of negotiations would wrap up in roughly 30 minutes, and that Trump would return to his hotel for a press conference two hours earlier than originally planned.
It was not immediately clear whether the schedule change meant that the ‘Joint Agreement Signing Ceremony’ between Trump and Kim originally on the White House schedule had been scrapped altogether.
11:46 p.m. (EST) – Kim indicates willingness to denuclearize, open US liaison office in Pyongyang
Answering yet another round of questions from reporters, Kim seemed to indicate a willingness to rid his country of nuclear weapons, but also that he is open to the idea of a U.S. liaison office in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
When asked by a reporter if he was “ready to denuclearize,” Kim answered, “if I’m not willing to do that I [wouldn’t] be here right now,” according to an interpretation from his translator.
The answer drew laughs in the room and seemed to surprise Trump, who has repeatedly softened expectations for what might come from the summit.
“That’s a good answer, wow!” Trump replied. “That might be the best answer you’ve ever heard.”
A reporter then followed up, asking if he was willing to take “concrete steps” to denuclearize, a sticking point for negotiators looking to gain access for inspections to North Korean facilities and a full accounting of its current arsenal.
“That is what we are discussing right now,” Kim answered.
“And don’t raise your voice, please,” Trump added. “This isn’t like dealing with Trump.”
The exchange seemed to amuse Kim.
“They all seem to be anxious,” Kim said of the reporters.
“I think they’re anxious and they’re calm,” Trump said.
After some remarks from Trump, where he described their negotiations as “productive,” reporters again tried to engage the two leaders, with one asking whether Kim would be willing to allow the opening of a U.S. consular office in Pyongyang.
A member of the North Korean delegation then seemed to try and wave the press out of the room, but Trump used the moment to press the issue.
“It’s actually an interesting question though,” Trump said. “I would like to actually hear that answer, because it’s actually not a bad idea.”
Kim then answered through his translator, saying, “I think that is something which is welcomeable.”
Reporters were then ushered out of the room.
11:20 p.m. (EST) – Kim takes more questions from reporters
Kim fielded some questions from Western reporters in Hanoi during his latest appearance with Trump.
One journalist asked Kim if he’s “ready to denuclearize.”
“If I’m not willing do that I won’t be here right now,” he said through an interpreter.
Trump responded, “That’s a good answer.”
10:10 p.m. (EST) – A history-making question? Analysis from ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl
As journalists were being escorted out of the first photo-op of the day between Kim and Trump, a reporter asked the North Korean leader a question: “Chairman Kim, are you confident?”
There was a pause. Would Kim take a question? He turned back to look at his translator and listened.
“It’s too early to tell,” Kim said, looking at the reporters after hearing the translation. “I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. From what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results would come out.”
Maybe not a ground-breaking answer, but a historic one.
This appears to be first time Kim has answered a question from the Western press. His father never did that. Nor did his grandfather.
The moment followed controversy Tuesday, after the White House prevented a group of print reporters from attending a photo-op of Trump’s dinner with Kim after the reporters attempted to ask questions of the leaders in a previous spray.
9:38 p.m. (EST) – Trump, Kim complete their one-on-one bilateral meeting
Following their one-on-one bilateral meeting, Trump and Kim walked together through a courtyard alongside a pool followed by their translators to join Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and DPRK Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol.
9 p.m. (EST) – Trump: “When you have a good relationship a lot of good things happen”
Trump and Kim are holding a photo op at the Metropole hotel downtown.
Trump briefly spoke about his “good relationship” with Kim ahead of their day of negotiations.
“A lot of good ideas being thrown about,” Trump said. “When you have a good relationship a lot of good things happen.”
Trump also appeared to downplay the idea that any major action would result from the sit-down meeting, emphasizing that he’s “in no rush” and highlighting what he described as significant economic opportunities for North Korea in the event Kim agrees to denuclearize.
“I can’t speak necessarily for today, but a little bit longer term and over a period of time I know we’re going to have a fantastic success with respect to Chairman Kim and North Korea,” Trump said. “I think it’s going to be an economic powerhouse. It is something I look forward to helping with, because with a little bit of help in the right location and the right place, I think it will be something very special.”
In what could be his first-ever exchange with a Western journalist, Kim briefly answered a Washington Post reporter’s question who asked if he was “confident” about the negotiations.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said through his interpreter. “I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. From what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results would come out.”
Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet privately for 45 minutes before sitting down with their top diplomatic aides for a more extensive meeting.
8:55 p.m. (EST) – What to expect
Whether Kim has any interest in in an agreement remains the fundamental question at the heart of Trump’s summit diplomacy, one that the U.S. intelligence community and North Korea analysts have grave doubts about.
The two have another personal meeting, joined only by their translators for 45 minutes, before a nearly two-hour long session with their negotiating teams. In addition to Pompeo and Mulvaney, Trump is expected to be joined by U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who has been in Hanoi for the last week trying to reach an agreement for Trump and Kim to sign in a signing ceremony for a joint agreement, but it’s unknown what that document will say.
The last summit in Singapore was criticized for its joint declaration, which committed both countries to pursuing the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” a term that was never defined and means very different things to either side.
For the U.S., it’s the unilateral disarmament of North Korea, including all its nuclear capabilities, ballistic missiles and chemical and biological weapons. But North Korea has shown no interest in doing so, instead seeking sanctions relief and normalized relations with the U.S. while handing over some small concessions, like inspections or verification of testing sites North Korea claims it has dismantled.
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