• President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, failed to reach a deal on denuclearization during their second summit meeting in eight months. “Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump said after the talks broke down.
• Mr. Trump said Mr. Kim was willing to close some but not all nuclear sites in North Korea in exchange for the lifting of all international sanctions.
• The leaders were scheduled to have lunch together and sign a joint agreement, but those plans were abruptly called off. After a news conference, Mr. Trump boarded Air Force One to return to Washington.
Disagreement over sanctions led to breakdown in talks, Trump says
A day that started with the promise of a denuclearization deal and talk of an official declaration to end the Korean War ended abruptly, without a deal.
“Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference after the talks fell apart.
Mr. Trump said the major sticking point to a deal with North Korea was the lifting of sanctions. Mr. Kim, the president said, wanted sanctions fully lifted in exchange for dismantling some — but not all — of the North’s nuclear weapons program.
“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Mr. Trump said. “They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we want, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that.”
Lifting punishing international sanctions that limit North Korea’s ability to import oil, and to export lucrative goods including coal and seafood, is the North’s primary goal in any negotiation. As a result, the United States sees the sanctions as a critical bargaining chip.
Mr. Trump said he and Mr. Kim discussed the closure of North Korea’s main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, and Mr. Kim expressed a willingness to allow the facility to be dismantled.
“He would do that but he wants the sanctions for that,” Mr. Trump said. “As you know, there’s plenty left after that. I just felt it wasn’t good.”
Yongbyon is the North’s largest facility, but not its only one. At his news conference, Mr. Trump acknowledged that the country had another uranium enrichment plant. North Korea has long been suspected of having uranium enrichment capabilities beyond Yongbyon.
Trump gives Kim a pass on American detainee’s death
Mr. Trump said he and Mr. Kim discussed the case of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died last year after being imprisoned in North Korea.
The president defended Mr. Kim, saying he believed the North Korean leader was unaware of the gravity of Mr. Warmbier’s medical condition.
“He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday.
Mr. Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was arrested while on a trip to North Korea for stealing a propaganda poster. In 2016 he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
Mr. Trump has taken credit for the return of Mr. Warmbier and a handful of other Americans held in North Korea. In the past, the president has pointed to Mr. Warmbier’s injuries as an example of the Kim regime’s brutality.
But on Thursday, Mr. Trump refused to place any blame on Mr. Kim.
“I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen, it just wasn’t to his advantage to happen,” Mr. Trump said. “Those prisons are rough, they’re rough places, and bad things happened. But I really don’t believe that he, I don’t believe that he knew about it.”
International news media scrambles
First came word that Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump’s lunch would be canceled. Then the scheduled signing of a joint agreement was called off. By midday Thursday, it was clear the talks had collapsed.
Confusion reigned in the international media center. What was happening? Hundreds of reporters frantically looked for an explanation or a statement from the White House.
Once Mr. Trump’s motorcade left the Metropole Hotel, it was clear that the deal was off.
At the press center, mild mayhem broke out when reporters from a Japanese news network started interviewing a reporter from Voice of America, a news agency funded by the United States government.
A crowd of journalists swarmed the VOA reporter, assuming that she was an official government spokesman. At one point, a reporter who joined the scrum realized that it was just a case of hacks interviewing each other. “You’re just journalists?” she said in disgust. “Oh my god, why did I run over here?” And stormed off.
— Motoko Rich
Kim cited a willingness to denuclearize
Mr. Kim said that his presence at the summit meeting was a sign of his willingness to denuclearize his country.
“If I’m not willing to do that, I won’t be here right now,” he said in response to a reporter’s question on Thursday morning.
“That might be the best answer you’ve ever heard,” Mr. Trump replied.
“We’ve had very, very productive discussions,” Mr. Trump said before the talks would collapse later that afternoon. “The relationship is as good as it’s ever been, I think better.”
When a reporter asked Mr. Kim whether he was willing to take concrete steps toward denuclearization, he said, “That’s what we are discussing right now.”
After Mr. Kim said the United States would be welcome to open a liaison office in North Korea, Mr. Trump signaled his interest in the idea. “I actually think it’s a good idea, both ways,” Mr. Trump said.
The two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations. United States consular interests in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, are represented by Sweden. North Korea likewise has no embassy in Washington, but its mission at the United Nations in New York is often a channel for diplomacy with the United States.
— Austin Ramzy