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US-North Korea dispute sanctions debate

February 28, 2019

The summit in Vietnam between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke up early, with different accounts for the reason why. The question of sanctions relief was a key point.

Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump with their translators
Image: picture-alliance/E. Vucci

Why did Hanoi summit fail?

US President Donald Trump took an earlier flight back to Washington after his summit meeting with the North Korean leader failed to reach an agreement they could announce to the world at the end of their two-day meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam. 

"Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times," Trump said, adding: "it was a friendly walk."

"It was all about the sanctions," Trump said. "Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn't do that."

The US and North Korean teams at the Metropole hotel in Hanoi
The US and North Korean teams at the Metropole hotel in HanoiImage: Reuters/L. Millis

North Korea: partial lifting

After Trump made his comments, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told a news
conference in Hanoi that North Korea had sought only a partial lifting of sanctions.

A realistic proposal had been offered at the summit, the minister said, adding that if the US partially removed sanctions, North Korea would permanently dismantle all plutonium and uranium production with US experts observing the process.

Ri said the North was also ready to offer — in writing — a permanent halt to the country's nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Washington had wasted an opportunity that "may not come again," the minister said.

Kim had been asked by reporters if he was ready to give up his nuclear weapons and had replied, via an interpreter: "If I'm not willing to do that, I won’t be here right now."

Failed diplomacy?

The White House had been confident enough of preparations for an accord ahead of the summit to schedule a "joint agreement signing ceremony" at the end of the meeting.The fact that it did not take place has some Trump critics suggesting he overestimated his diplomatic abilities.

The two men's previous meeting in Singapore had brought only a statement of intent to work toward denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. 

Neither side mentioned when or whether Trump and Kim would meet again. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said nuclear negotiations with North Korea would resume "tomorrow," although no new meetings have been scheduled. 

jm/amp (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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