HANOI: North Korea on Friday promised further negotiations with the US, as both sides sought to hold open the door while staking out their positions after their Hanoi summit spectacularly failed to produce a nuclear deal.
The second meeting between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump broke up in disarray on Thursday, with a signing ceremony cancelled and no joint communique issued.
Each sought to blame the other’s intransigence for the deadlock, with Trump saying Pyongyang wanted all sanctions imposed on it over its banned weapons programmes lifted.
Despite the deadlock, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported on Friday that the two leaders had had a “constructive and candid exchange”.
Relations between the two countries – on opposite sides of the technically still-unfinished Korean War – had been “characterised by mistrust and antagonism” for decades, it said, and there were “inevitable hardships and difficulties” on the way to forging a new relationship.
It described the Hanoi meeting as “successful” and said Kim had promised Trump another encounter.
Trump said that the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear programme had been the sticking point. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” he said.
But he insisted he was “optimistic that the progress we made” before and at the summit left them “in position to have a really good outcome” in the future.
“Sometimes you have to walk and this was just one of those times,” Trump told reporters.
“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” he added.
In the original White House programme, a “Joint Agreement Signing Ceremony” had been scheduled in Hanoi as well as a working lunch for the two leaders.
In the event, both men left the summit venue without signing anything and Trump moved up his news conference by two hours.
Ankit Panda, from the Federation of American Scientists, warned on Twitter that the White House’s expectation of further talks “does not have to be a perception shared in North Korea. Kim may have left irate, for all we know. He may have no intention of continuing this.”
Trump flew around the world for the meeting and Kim undertook a mammoth two-and-a-half-day trek through China in his olive green train, travelling 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles).
At first, the smiles and bonhomie from Singapore ran on into their second date in Hanoi as Trump touted the “special relationship” between the two, although concrete statements were vague.
The US president frequently dangled the prospect of a brighter economic future for a nuclear-free North Korea, at one point saying there was “awesome” potential.
From the outset, he had appeared to downplay expectations of an immediate breakthrough in nuclear talks, saying he was in “no rush” to clinch a rapid deal and was content if a pause in missile testing continued.
But Harry Kazianis, Director of Korean Studies at the Centre for the National Interest, said that no agreement was better than a bad one.
There would be “nothing worse than signing a deal just to get something”, he told AFP. “The challenge is North Korea’s nuclear weapons are already a reality,” he added. “Getting a deal that does little to nothing to remove that threat would be far worse than a flawed deal.”