President Donald Trump said Thursday he cut short his nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because the two sides could not agree on the removal of sanctions.
The meetings between the two leaders in Hanoi, Vietnam started Wednesday night and were scheduled to conclude with a signing ceremony for some sort of agreement between the two nuclear powers. Instead, the talks were cut short on Thursday — even before Trump and Kim could share a planned lunch — and the White House announced there would be nothing to sign.
“It wasn’t a good thing to be signing anything,” Trump said during a post-summit news conference. “We had some options, and at this time we decided not to do any of the options, and we’ll see where that goes.”
“Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times,” he added.
Trump is pushing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons as he dangles the prospect of an economic boost to the repressive country. Kim, experts say, wants to see sanctions eased without losing the strategic benefits of his weapons of mass destruction.
Trump said he had not committed to a third summit with the North Korean dictator. Still, Trump described the talks as “productive,” and highlighted his relationship with Kim — “I think we’ll end up being very good friends.”
At the end of the day, though, Trump said he “would not have been happy about” any deal he saw on the table for Thursday’s talks.
“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said. “They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that. So we continue to work and we’ll see, but we had to walk away from that particular suggestion. We had to walk away from that.”
North Korea currently faces United Nations sanctions and separate sanctions from the United States. The U.N. blocks some imports and exports and has frozen the assets of individuals connected with Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The United States restricts the North Korean economy further and targets more individuals.
Trump claimed Kim was willing to close down one weapons facility — the Yongbyon nuclear complex — in exchange for the complete removal of sanctions, but the U.S. team “brought many points up that they were surprised that we knew” and so demanded more actions from Kim’s regime.
“(Kim) 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,” Trump said, adding that he thought the gap between the U.S. and North Korea would be bridged “with time.”
The president confirmed that all the current sanctions on Pyongyang will remain in place.
“You always have to be prepared to walk,” Trump said. “I could have 100 percent signed something today — we actually had papers ready to be signed — but it just wasn’t appropriate. I want to do it right: I’d much rather do it right than do it fast.”