Less than 12 hours after the second summit between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un abruptly fell apart, a North Korean official disputed Trump’s account of the talks, saying the nation had made “a realistic proposal.”
Kim offered to make a written commitment to no longer test long-range missiles and to allow inspections at the country’s main Yongbyon nuclear complex, foreign minister Ri Yong Ho said in a rare news conference, held after midnight in Hanoi, Vietnam, the site of the summit.
Reading from a prepared statement, Ri said the U.S., in walking away from the summit, had given up on an opportunity for the best deal North Korea was willing to offer at this stage. He did not mention Trump by name.
“This proposal was the biggest denuclearization measure we can take at the present stage in relation to the current level of confidence between the DPRK and the United States,” Ri said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Ri contradicted Trump’s account that North Korea had demanded sanctions against the country be lifted in their entirety, saying Kim had only asked that sanctions that “hamper the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people” be removed.
Ri said the sanctions Kim had asked the U.S. to lift were the five imposed in 2016 and 2017, of a total 11 in place — the harshest of the sanctions that were enacted after a series of nuclear tests.
In a press conference after talks with Kim were cut short and a signing ceremony and luncheon were scrapped, Trump told reporters he had to “walk away” from a potential deal because North Korea wanted to give up too little in return for more than the U.S. was willing to give.
Trump said North Korea needed to give up secret nuclear facilities in addition to Yongbyon, which the nation has agreed to dismantle in past rounds of negotiations with the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also noted that shuttering Yongbyon would still leave intact most of North Korea’s missile, warheads and weapons systems.
Trump spoke before hundreds of reporters in a hotel ballroom, atop a stage decked out with the American flag and a logo for the “Hanoi Summit.” Ri’s unscheduled late-night press conference appeared almost spontaneously put together in response to Trump’s remarks, and was held impromptu at the lobby of the hotel where Kim is staying.
Trump said the relationship remained positive and called the talks productive, leaving open the possibility of future talks without committing to a third summit.
Ri, though, said even if the U.S. and North Korea were to continue negotiations, Kim Jong Un’s position would remain the same.