Hanoi, Vietnam: President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un ended talks earlier than scheduled Thursday and canceled a planned signing ceremony for a nuclear deal. Trump moved up a news conference by two hours, to 2 a.m. Eastern time.
Trump and Kim “had very good and constructive meetings,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “The two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts.” However, she said, “no agreement was reached at this time.”
The stunning announcement came after Trump and Kim tamped down expectations for the two-day summit that played out amid ceremony in Vietnam and political turmoil in the United States.
“We’ll ultimately have a deal,” Trump told reporters just a few hours before cutting off talks early, but he added that “doesn’t mean we’re doing it in one day, in one meeting.”
The president spoke guardedly throughout a morning of meetings with Kim that came just after his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, implicated him in criminal wrongdoing back in the U.S.
The leaders suggested they may have trouble bridging the U.S. demand that North Korea provide a specific plan for denuclearization and North Korea’s demand that the U.S. first ease off economic sanctions.
As he did before the summit, Trump said he was in no “rush” to demand immediate denuclearization, so long as North Korea continues not to test nuclear weapons and missiles. “Speed is not that important to me,” Trump said. “I appreciate no testing.”
Kim, taking the unprecedented step of answering a western reporter’s question, said “it’s too early to say” whether there will be a deal, but “I would not say I’m pessimistic.”
Later, again responding to an American reporter, Kim said he is willing to denuclearize his nation’s weapons systems. “If I’m not willing to do that,” he said, “I won’t be here right now.”
“That might be the best answer you’ve ever heard,” Trump chimed in.
Little more than an hour later, as the table for a working lunch with officials say empty, the White House announced the summit was ending early. White House spokesman Sarah Sanders declined to discuss the reason, saying only that a planned agreement signing ceremony appeared “unlikely.”
In addition to a denuclearization deal, the two sides were discussing a declaration to formally end the nearly seven-decade-old Korean War, which is technically still in place because it ended only with an armistice in 1953.
Image: President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose during their summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 28, 2019.