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US threw away 'golden opportunity' at Hanoi summit, North Korean official says

A nuclear summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, between Kim and Trump ended without agreement on 28 February.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during at Hanoi summit
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during at Hanoi summit
Image: Shealah Craighead via PA Images

THE US THREW away a “golden opportunity” at the recent summit between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un, a North Korean official has said. 

Addressing a meeting of diplomats and foreign media in Pyongyang, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said the North was deeply disappointed by the failure of the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi summit.

She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the US takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its “political calculation”.

A nuclear summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, between Kim and Trump ended without agreement on 28 February.

Kim, Choe said, was puzzled by what she called the “eccentric” negotiation position of the US.

She suggested that while Trump was more willing to talk, an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust was created by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

She said statements by senior Trump advisers since the summit have further worsened the climate.

Despite this, Choe said personal relations between the two leaders are still good and “the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful”.

‘Thrown away a golden opportunity’

Following the breakdown of talks, each side sought to blame the other for the deadlock, with Trump saying Pyongyang wanted the US to lift all sanctions imposed on it over its banned weapons programmes.

But in a late-night press conference after the summit ended, the North Korean foreign minister said that Kim only wanted some of the measures eased, and that its offer to close all nuclear production facilities at its Yongbyon complex was the best it could ever offer.

North Korea US North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui (centre) Source: AP/PA Images

Choe has now questioned the claim by Trump that the North was seeking the lifting of all sanctions against it, and said it was seeking only the ones that are directed at its civilian economy. 

Choe said it was the US that was being too demanding and inflexible and called the demand that denuclearisation come before sanctions are eased “an absurd sophism”.

She added that while South Korean President Moon Jae-in has tried to help bring the US and North Korea together to talk, the South is “a player, not an arbiter” because it is an ally of Washington.

She said even though the people, military and officials of the munitions industry have sent Kim thousands of petitions to never give up the nuclear program, he went to Hanoi to build trust and carry out mutually agreed commitments “one by try and step by step”.

What is clear is that the U.S. has thrown away a golden opportunity this time.
I’m not sure why the US came out with this different description. We never asked for the removal of sanctions in their entirety.

“This time we understood very clearly that the United States has a very different calculation to ours,” she added.

‘We just had to walk’

Speaking after the Hanoi summit breakdown, Trump said “sometimes you have to walk”.

“We just left chairman Kim with a really, I think a very productive time. We thought and I thought and Secretary Pompeo felt that it wasn’t a good thing to be signing anything,” Trump said, speaking to the media shortly after leaving the summit.

“We spent pretty all day with Kim Jong Un who is… he’s quite a guy and quite a character and I think our relationship is very strong. At this time we had some options and at this time we decided not to do any of the options and we’ll see where that goes. 

It was a very interesting two days and I think actually it was a very productive two days but sometimes you have to walk and this was just one of those times. 

Choe refused to comment directly when asked by one of the ambassadors about news reports the North may be preparing for another missile launch or satellite launch.

“Whether to maintain this moratorium or not is the decision of our chairman of the state affairs commission,” she said, using one of Kim’s titles. “He will make his decision in a short period of time.”

Includes reporting by Associated Press

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