An official with the U.S. State Department confirmed that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, not President Donald Trump, had the most accurate account on what happened at the summit with Trump before talks broke down on Thursday.
The president claimed that he had walked away from negotiations in Hanoi after Kim Jong Un demanded that all sanctions against the nation be lifted.
“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said. “We had to walk away from that.”
But just hours later, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho called a late-night news conference to correct Trump’s false statements, saying that Kim wanted only economic sanctions imposed since 2016 lifted and not any concerning weapons.
In exchange, Yong Ho said that Kim offered to shut down the nation’s main nuclear complex and was prepared to offer in writing a permanent halt to the nation’s nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests.
North Korea’s account of the sanction issue was accurate, a State Department official said Friday in a briefing to the media.
The Associated Press reported that Kim had sought the lifting of only United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed since March 2016 — not sanctions going back decades. The concession would have removed sanctions on a range of goods, but not weapons.
Kim’s position was no surprise, the official said, because it had been brought up repeatedly in lower-level talks. But Trump and his negotiators decided lifting the sanctions posed from 2016 onward was too much.
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said Trump’s reaction puzzled Kim. She said that Kim “may have lost his will [to continue] North Korea-U.S. dealings,” the AP reported.
The president appeared to allude to the changing characterization of why the talks broke down in a tweet on Friday morning:
Great to be back from Vietnam, an amazing place. We had very substantive negotiations with Kim Jong Un – we know what they want and they know what we must have. Relationship very good, let’s see what happens!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2019