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US-North Korea talks fail due to sanctions disagreement

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US-North Korea talks fail due to sanctions disagreement
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The Vietnam summit failed because North Korea wanted all sanctions lifted, said US President Donald Trump during a press conference after a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

Trump said that the agreement papers were ready to be signed on Wednesday but that the deal on the table just wasn't "appropriate".

"I could’ve signed today but I want to do it right [rather] than do it fast," said Trump.

However, North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho refuted Trump's claim, saying North Korea had in fact requested a "partial removal" of sanctions.

"What we proposed is not the removal of all sanctions but the partial removal," Ri said in a statement, placing a specific emphasis on sanctions that "impede the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people..."

While the White House acknowledged in an earlier statement the failure to reach an agreement during the two-day summit in Vietnam, it said the two leaders did manage to hold a constructive discussion on denuclearisation.

“President Donald J. Trump of the United States and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had very good and constructive meetings in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27-28, 2019. The two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearisation and economic driven concepts. No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future.”

At the press conference, Trump said that Kim was prepared to denuclearise a "large portion" if the US lifted all sanctions. But in the end, it wasn't the area that the US wanted denuclearised so the deal could not work.

"We have to have sanctions and he wants to denuke, but he wants to just do areas that are less important than the areas that we want. We know the country very well, believe it or not. We know every inch of that country, and we have to get what we have to get. Because that's a big give," he said.

Ri somewhat reiterated Trump's comments in a later statement, saying North Korea had "expressed intent" to commit to a "permanent halt of the nuclear testing and long-range rocket launch testing" in order to "accelerate the process of denuclearisation," but that, ultimately, disagreements over location caused the commitment to fall apart.

"...the US insisted that we should take one more step besides the dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in the Yongbyun area," Ri said.

"Therefore, it became crystal clear that the US was not ready to accept our proposal."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that even if the two sides made "real progress" during the summit, they didn't get "all the way".

"Unfortunately, we didn't get all the way that ultimately made sense for the United States of America. I think chairman Kim was hopeful that we would. We asked him to do more. He was unprepared to do that, but I'm optimistic," said Pompeo, adding that US and North Korean teams will be getting together in the weeks ahead to keep working on a deal.

Trump said that he wanted to take off sanctions but that North Korea had to "give up more".

However, the US leader did not note that he was promised by Kim that they would cease all testing of rockets and nuclear.

Both the US president and Ri remained vague on whether he would be having another summit with the North Korean leader.

"It is difficult to say whether there might be a better agreement than the one based on our proposal at the current stage," Ri said.

"Our principle stand remains invariable and our proposal will never be changed even though the US proposes negotiations again in the future."

News of the summit being cut short sent South Korea's market tumbling.

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The motorcade of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen after leaving the Metropole, following the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28, 2019.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

On military exercises with South Korea?

Trump said that he gave those up because of their cost.

"We spend hundreds of millions of dollars on those exercises, and I hated to see it. I thought it was unfair. And frankly, I was sort of the opinion that South Korea should help us with that."

On Michael Cohen's testimony

Trump said that his former lawyer's testimony was "incorrect" and that its timing, in the middle of the summit with Kim, was a "terrible thing".

The US president said Cohen lied about everything except the collusion with the Russian hoax.

"He said no collusion, and I was a little impressed by that, frankly. He could have gone all out. He only went about 95% instead of 100%. But the fact is there is no collusion, and I call it the witch hunt."

Cohen told the House committee on Wednesday that Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks had emails damaging to 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and that Trump is a "racist," a "conman" and a "cheat." But delivered no evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Moscow during the presidential campaign.

What was said during the summit?

Earlier Kim and Trump seemed more confident at making progress in their talks. Kim said he would be willing to denuclearise, speaking on the second day of his summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The two leaders held more one-on-one talks and roundtable discussions hoping to improve relations and reach a deal on denuclearisation.

“If I’m not willing to do that, I won’t be here right now,” Kim told reporters through an interpreter when asked if he was ready to give up his nuclear weapons.

However, the North Korean leader did not elaborate on what denuclearisation meant or the concrete steps he would be taking.

While the US would like North Korea to give up all its nuclear weapons, North Korea wants the removal of a US nuclear umbrella for its Asian allies such as South Korea and Japan.

Trump said he was in no rush to see North Korea denuclearise.

"I've been saying very much from the beginning that speed is not that important to me. I very much appreciate no testing of nuclear rockets, missiles, any of it, very much appreciate it," Trump told reporters.

"Chairman Kim and myself, we want to do the right deal."

Kim, for his part, remained more vague on whether he would be able to strike a deal with Trump.

"It's too early to tell, but I wouldn't say I'm pessimistic. For what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come out," he said, in what was believed to be his first ever response to a foreign journalist.

Trump again reiterated North Korea's potential to be an "economic powerhouse".

Kim didn't know about Otto Warmbier's death

When asked about the responsibility for the death of American Otto Warmbier after he was detained in North Korea, Trump said that Kim told him that he didn't know about it and that he would take the chairman's word.

"I really believe something horrible happened to him, and I really don't think the top leadership knew about it. [...] And I did speak about it, but I don't believe he would have allowed that to happen. It just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen."

A US office in Pyongyang?

Kim also said he was ready to "welcome" a US office in Pyongyang, signalling the start of new US-North Korean relations.

South Korean reaction

"We do regret that President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un did not reach a complete agreement at today's summit. But, it is clear that (the summit) made meaningful progress than any other time in the past," said Kim Eui Keum, SK's presidential spokesperson in a briefing following the breakdown of the Hanoi summit.

"We understand that the two leaders expanded the scope and the depth of understanding for where each other stood by carrying out in-depth discussion. In particular, President Trump's expressed continued determination to engage in talks and his optimistic views allow for the bright prospect for the next summit.

"The fact that President Trump openly expressed his desire to lift sanctions in relation to North Korea's denuclearisation proves that the level of discussion between the US and NK has been elevated further up," Kim said.

Watch the press conference in full here