The United States and North Korea on Friday put forward starkly different accounts over the breakdown of a high-stakes summit in Hanoi but offered guarded hope that they could meet again.
After weeks of building expectations and with a signing ceremony ready to go, President Donald Trump abruptly ended his second-ever meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and declared a deadlock.
“Sometimes you have to walk and this was just one of those times,” an unusually downbeat Trump told reporters.
“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said before flying back to Washington.
In an exceptionally rare meeting with reporters, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho summoned the press in Hanoi at midnight and denied the White House account that Pyongyang was only seeking a complete deal.
North Korea had offered to “permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear production facilities” at its main complex in Yongbyon if the US dropped sanctions “that hamper the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people”, Ri said.
He warned that the North’s stance was “invariable” and that its offer will “never change”.
But North Korean state media — which less than two years ago was branding Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard” — offered a more conciliatory take, saying the summit had been “productive”.
Kim and Trump “agreed to continue having productive talks to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the improvement of US-North Korea relations”, the Korean Central News Agency said.
The North Koreans appeared to be thinking through their response to the often unpredictable Trump, who insisted that he could obtain a better deal.
“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” Trump told reporters, reaffirming his “close relationship” with Kim.
“There’s a warmth that we have and I hope that stays, I think it will.”
Trump also said he hoped to see Kim again soon but offered no details.