HANOI (AFP) – North Korea yesterday promised further negotiations with the United States (US), as both sides sought to hold open the door while staking out their positions after their Hanoi summit spectacularly failed to produce a nuclear deal.
The second meeting between the North’s leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump broke up in disarray on Thursday, with a signing ceremony cancelled and no joint communiqué issued.
Each sought to blame the other’s intransigence for the deadlock, with Trump saying Pyongyang wanted all sanctions imposed on it over its banned weapons programmes lifted.
But in a rare late-night press briefing, the North Korean Foreign Minister said it had only wanted some of the measures eased, and that its offer to close “all the nuclear production facilities” at its Yongbyon complex was the best it could ever offer.
Despite the deadlock, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported yesterday that the two leaders had had a “constructive and candid exchange”.
Relations between the two countries – on opposite sides of the technically still-unfinished Korean War – had been “characterised by mistrust and antagonism” for decades, it said, and there were “inevitable hardships and difficulties” on the way to forging a new relationship.
It described the Hanoi meeting as “successful” and said Kim had promised Trump another encounter.
Similarly, Trump said before leaving the Vietnamese capital that he hoped to meet Kim again.
“Sometimes you have to walk and this was just one of those times,” an unusually downbeat Trump told reporters.
“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” he said, while reaffirming his “close relationship” with Kim. “There’s a warmth that we have and I hope that stays, I think it will.”
South Korea’s dovish President Moon Jae-in, who has brokered talks between the US and the North, sought to take the positives.
The talks had made “meaningful progress”, with Trump and Kim building “more trust” and “mutual understanding”, Moon said in a speech in Seoul. The outcome in Hanoi fell far short of the pre-meeting expectations and hopes, after critics said their initial historic meeting in Singapore – which produced only a vague commitment from Kim to work “towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” – was more style over substance.
According to senior US officials, in the week leading up to the Hanoi summit the North Koreans had demanded the lifting of effectively all the UN Security Council economic sanctions imposed on Pyongyang since March 2016.