Trump-Kim Summit Ends With No Deal
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And I'm Rachel Martin. No deal - President Donald Trump is on Air Force One this morning, leaving his second summit with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. He is leaving empty-handed. Before taking off from Hanoi, Vietnam, President Trump said he and the North Korean leader departed on good terms. They just couldn't reach an agreement.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety. And we couldn't do that. They were willing to de-nuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted. But we couldn't give up all of the sanctions for that.
MARTIN: The president still called the talks productive. Sue Mi Terry is a former senior analyst on Korea for the CIA. She's now senior fellow and Korea chair with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Sue, thanks for being here.
SUE MI TERRY: Thank you for having me on.
MARTIN: We also have NPR's Anthony Kuhn, who's been covering the summit in Hanoi. Anthony, I want to start with you there on the ground. At what point during the summit did it become clear that there wasn't going to be a deal?
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Just after noontime - things went pretty much as scheduled during the morning. The two leaders had their one-on-one talk. They then moved into broader discussions with other officials. Those went into overtime. And then lunch was canceled. And then a planned deal signing was canceled.
They went straight to a press conference in which President Trump explained that the deal fell apart because North Korea wanted the U.S. to lift sanctions before it went ahead and dismantled its main nuclear plant at Yongbyon. And Trump said he just had to walk away from that deal because it wasn't a good one.
MARTIN: Sue Mi Terry, how do you view what happened? I mean, was this a total failure, partial success, waste of time?
TERRY: Well, I think it's - it wasn't waste of time. And it wasn't a complete catastrophic failure in that it seems like President Trump was saying that lower-level conversations is going to continue. They didn't say talks are over, and we're going to go back to fire and fury. And it's better to have this talk fail at this moment than have a bad deal. And if North Koreans wanted all sanctions lifted, we just couldn't do that.
So I think in this case, President Trump did the right thing. We were actually worried that President Trump, looking for foreign policy success, that he would have agreed to a bad deal. So from my perspective, this is better than walking away with giving North Koreans all sanctions - lifting all sanctions.
MARTIN: And the president is trying to frame this optimistically. He says he did get Kim Jong Un to agree to at least one thing. Let's play this clip.
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TRUMP: One of the things, importantly, that Chairman Kim promised me last night is, regardless, he's not going to do testing of rockets and nuclear - not going to do testing. So, you know, I trust him. And I take him at his word. I hope that's true.
MARTIN: Is that trust well-placed?
TERRY: I think for now, Kim Jong Un does not want to return to provocation. So I think it works for North Korea to continue the moratorium on nuclear missile testing. The question is, though, if North Koreans want all sanctions lifted, where do we go from here? - because sequencing is going to be difficult in terms of who does what first. Eight months after Singapore, we are still here where we don't have agreed-upon definition of denuclearization itself.
North Korea, when they talk about denuclearization, they are talking about South Korean territory too, when the United States is talking about, of course, North Korea's nuclear program. So we don't have an agreed-upon definition on denuclearization. We don't have agreed-upon - you know, we don't have agreement on sequencing. And now we are far apart on, you know, whether we should lift sanctions versus denuclearization steps. So we have a long road ahead of us.
MARTIN: But what is going to change the North's behavior? And I'll put this to both of you. But, Anthony - I mean, President Trump went into this summit - and this setting was significant, right? Vietnam - holding up Vietnam as an example of a former U.S. adversary turned into an ally that is thriving economically. I mean, saying, you too, North Korea - you could become like Vietnam. You just have to give up all your nuclear weapons. And Kim Jong Un, time and time again, isn't swayed by this economic argument.
KUHN: Right. Both sides had progressed in their positions since the first summit. They were supposed to have laid out their views completely and understood each other's views. So it's really surprising. Now, here's another way to look at it, OK? They said they made progress on certain issues. One - this came up in their remarks - normalization of ties. For example, they both seem to be amenable to opening liaison offices in each other's capitals - an end-of-war declaration.
MARTIN: End of war on the Korean Peninsula.
KUHN: Yes, right. So these sort of secondary issues they seem to have made progress on. The key issues of denuclearization for sanctions - they just could not give ground on these key issues and were stuck again. And it is surprising.
MARTIN: Sue Mi Terry, go ahead.
TERRY: I think enticing Kim to open up North Korea like Vietnam was far-fetched to begin with. Vietnam was able to do that - pursue a China-style economic reform after they won, basically, and unified the country. North Korea has to deal with freer, richer, more Democratic rival state in the south.
So that was sort of a far-fetched scenario, from my perspective, to begin with. North Korea was not going to - just because Kim Jong Un is pursuing some economic reform, that's a long road ahead where they're ready to open up the country completely and normalize relations.
MARTIN: Right. Anthony, I'll leave it to you for the last word about regional response because President Trump has also mentioned that the strong partnership with China, Russia, South Korea and Japan has been instrumental in at least getting North Korea to the table. Any reaction from those countries to what happened at the summit or what, rather, did not happen?
KUHN: Well, I think probably the most shocked and dismayed is South Korea. President Moon Jae-in was all set to give a speech in which he laid out plans for further cooperation, economic integration. They're now, again, stuck. They cannot move ahead without some sort of progress on denuclearization. So we really have to see how North Korea responds, how they spin this, how willing they are to go back to the negotiating table and when.
MARTIN: All right. NPR's Anthony Kuhn on the ground in Hanoi. We were also joined by Sue Mi Terry, senior fellow and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Thank you so much to both of you.
KUHN: You're welcome.
TERRY: Thank you.
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