Trump-Kim summit 2019 in disarray as talks cut short

PHOTO: Reuters

Nuclear talks between the US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were in disarray Thursday as the two sides cancelled plans to hold a joint signing ceremony after making little progress on the way forward for Pyongyang to dismantle its decades-old push to be a nuclear power.

The first signs of trouble with the two-day summit in Hanoi came just past noon, when the White House told pool reporters a planned working lunch had been called off, and that Trump would return to his hotel for a press conference two hours earlier than expected - at 2pm local time. The White House said later that "no agreement was reached".

Both sides had scheduled a "joint signing ceremony" at 2.05pm, with Trump supposed to hold a press conference at 3.50pm at the JW Marriott hotel where he is staying.

There had been little sign the leaders were locked in disagreement when they briefly spoke to the media earlier in the day, and during their dinner on Wednesday.

"We had a good discussion last night at dinner and pre-dinner was very good. We had a lot of great ideas being brought about … I think [North Korea] is going to be an economic powerhouse," Trump said during the one-on-one meeting on Thursday.

Kim also said: "We have made a lot of efforts so far and we thought that now is time to come to Hanoi to sit together and then have this wonderful dialogue … and let me assure you I'll do all my best to bring a good result ultimately today."

The North Korean leader also added at the beginning of the expanded meeting that he would not have come to Hanoi unless he wanted to denuclearise.

The two-day meeting in Hanoi was meant to build on the Singapore summit last June - an unprecedented meeting between sitting leaders of the United States and North Korea. At that summit, the two leaders agreed to a vague declaration on their commitment towards full denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un hold second summit in Vietnam

  • Nuclear talks between the US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were in disarray Thursday
  • as the two sides cancelled plans to hold a joint signing ceremony after making little progress on the way forward for Pyongyang to dismantle its decades-old push to be a nuclear power.
  • The first signs of trouble with the two-day summit in Hanoi came just past noon, when the White House told pool reporters a planned working lunch had been called off, and that Trump would return to his hotel for a press conference two hours earlier than expected - at 2pm local time.
  • The White House said later that "no agreement was reached".
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump were at pains to show they were getting along in the well-choreographed first moments of their meeting in Hanoi, body language experts said.
  • There were signs of tension, however, when the two men sat down after the initial handshake.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed into Vietnam on Tuesday (Feb 26) after a marathon train journey for a second summit showdown with Donald Trump, with the world looking for concrete progress over the North's nuclear programme.
  • Kim's trademark olive green train chugged into the Vietnamese station of Dong Dang following a 4,000km, two-and-a-half-day odyssey shrouded in secrecy.
  • Schoolchildren waving North Korean flags and a military guard of honour in pristine white uniforms greeted Kim, the first North Korean leader to visit Vietnam since his grandfather Kim Il Sung in 1964.
  • Security was ultra-tight with scores of heavily armed Vietnamese soldiers and police guarding the site.
  • Authorities have shut down the 170km stretch of road to Hanoi that Kim is due to take.
  • US President Donald Trump waves while disembarking from Air Force One at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.
  • Vietnamese soldiers stand in a formation at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.
  • Vietnamese children wave flags of Vietnam and the US before the arrival of US President Donald Trump at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi
  • U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the Government office, ahead of the second U.S.-North Korea summit, in Hanoi, Vietnam.
  • US President Donald Trump and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong attend a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi

While few experts believed that would be achieved at the Hanoi summit, expectations were that there would at least be some progress.

The US and North Korea did not have an equal number of officials at the expanded meeting before the joint statement was cancelled.

A total of three senior officials accompanied Trump - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Only two North Korean officials were present - top nuclear negotiator Kim Yong-chol and Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.