President Donald Trump’s nuclear negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam have been abruptly cut short, and ended without a deal.
The White House announced Thursday that Trump’s planned press conference was being moved up by two hours – to 2 p.m. local time. Originally, that was when Trump and Kim were joining to sign a joint agreement, but according to the White House Press Secretary, “No agreement was reached at this time.”
At a press conference in Hanoi, Trump said talks broke down because Kim said he would only close the Yongbyon nuclear facility – North Korea’s most important research and production site – if the U.S. lifted all sanctions on North Korea.
That offer was ultimately deemed unacceptable, Trump said, because North Korea has other missile facilities elsewhere in the country. “You have to be prepared to walk away,” he said. “We actually had papers ready to be signed, but it just wasn’t appropriate.”
“I want to take off the sanctions so badly, because I want that country to grow,” Trump added, before handing over to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“We made real progress,” Pompeo said, “unfortunately we didn’t get all the way.”
Trump’s appearance – in the middle of the night for most of America – comes hours after his former longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen gave explosive testimony on Capitol Hill in which he called the President a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat.”
Trump is hoping to convince the the 35-year-old dictator that moving away from his nuclear and missile programs could bring North Korea out of the cold.
Without nuclear weapons, North Korea “could fast become one of the greatest economic powers in the World,” Trump tweeted ahead of his departure for the high-profile meeting in Vietnam.
The historic first meeting between the leaders of the world’s largest nuclear power and the most reclusive one last June drew public criticism for a lack of tangible denuclearization results.
This time around, Trump has soft-pedaled expectations. “I don’t want to rush anybody. I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy,” he reportedly told attendees of the White House’s Governor’s Ball.
In Singapore, Trump offered his counterpart a major concession: the suspension of joint military exercises with South Korean forces. But experts have warned that Trump’s eagerness to make a deal is unlikely to lead to a unilateral dismantling of the arsenal.
“Any substantive agreement must be implemented on an ‘action for action’ basis,” Sung-Yoon Lee, professor of Korean Studies at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, told TIME last month.
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