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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) and US President Donald Trump during the US-North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday. (AFP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) and US President Donald Trump during the US-North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday. (AFP)

Trump-Kim summit collapses without agreement, US says

  • An abrupt end to the Trump-Kim summit plunges future talks on North Korea's denuclearization into question
  • Kim Jong Un publicly says he was willing to denuclearize, but doesn't get into details of the process

Hanoi: US President Donald Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un collapsed Thursday without an agreement between the two leaders, plunging future talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme into question.

The two leaders “had very good and constructive meetings in Hanoi," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. They “discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts. No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future."

Trump and Kim separately departed Hanoi’s Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel before 1.30pm local time. Trump is expected to hold a news conference at 2pm, two hours ahead of schedule, Sanders told reporters in Hanoi.

The leaders had earlier planned to sign a joint agreement at 2pm, following a working lunch. It isn’t clear if the lunch proceeded as scheduled; reporters were ushered from the dining room at the hotel before seeing Trump, Kim or their aides following a morning of private meetings.

Sanders didn’t say why the summit’s schedule was abruptly changed, and initially told reporters that “negotiations are ongoing" when asked whether there would be a joint statement.

Asian stocks extended declines along with US futures after the Trump-Kim summit ended without any ceremony. Korean assets dropped and the yen advanced.

The Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, was not the first time Trump abruptly left an international gathering. Last year, the US president skipped meetings on climate change and green energy at the G7 Summit in Canada to leave early for his first summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Trump’s departure came after he publicly clashed with other world leaders over his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The president has also quickly ended talks he felt were unproductive, most recently during negotiations with congressional Democrats over a government spending bill. Trump walked out of a meeting in the White House situation room after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told him that Democrats wouldn’t fund his proposed border wall even if he allowed a partial government shutdown to end. Trump tweeted that the meeting was “a total waste of time".

“I said bye-bye, nothing else works!" Trump wrote.

A former South Korean nuclear negotiator said that Trump was right to abandon the summit if he decided it was unpromising.

“No agreement is better than a bad agreement," said the former negotiator, Chun Yungwoo, who is chairman of the Korean Peninsula Future Forum.

The tone of the summit changed as abruptly as the schedule. Trump had earlier downplayed expectations of a breakthrough in the nuclear talks, stalled for months after the leaders’ first summit in Singapore. But he told reporters during meetings in the morning that the negotiations had been “very productive" and said “the relationship is as good as it’s ever been."

For his part, Kim publicly said that he was willing to denuclearize, in answer to a question from a US reporter—the first time he is known to have taken questions from American journalists. He also said that the US and North Korea establishing respective diplomatic offices in each other’s countries would be a “welcome idea", without committing to it.

“There are people remaining skeptical about this (Trump-Kim summit)," the North Korean leader said in his native tongue in introductory remarks. “All of them will be watching this moment together as if they are watching a fantasy movie."

“Let me assure you I will do all my best to bring a good result ultimately," he added.

But Trump has for sometime said he is not in a hurry to cut a deal with Pyongyang, which is under heavy US sanctions in response to Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile tests.

“Speed’s not that important to me," Trump said as the pair sat down for talks at the Metropole. “No rush. We just want to do the right deal."

The summit was organized in Hanoi in haste after Trump announced the meeting on 8 February, and the White House sought to lower expectations even before the president left for Vietnam.

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