President Trump walked away from the Hanoi summit with Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea without reaching a deal to resolve the Korean conflict involving nuclear weapons and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The abrupt ending of talks without definite progress is seen as a serious blow to the possibility of building peace between the two nations.
The failure of the summit seems to be linked to both sides’ unwillingness to compromise on any of the key components that would have led to denuclearization. The North Korean leader demanded a blanket lifting of United Nations sanctions in return for the closure of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Facility, its most important research and production site.
The immediate removal of sanctions was a non-starter for Trump. “You have to be prepared to walk away,” he said in a conference later. North Korea, a country infamous for its secrecy, has other nuclear facilities so the removal of the Yongbyon facility would not have been the end of a North Korean nuclear program.
Trump in turn presented the same offer that previous administrations before him had offered: the trading of all nuclear weapons, materials and facilities in return for the end of sanctions. President Trump believed that he could succeed where others failed due to his self-purported skill as a deal maker, and the relationship between the two leaders. Kim Jong Un objected to these terms on the basis that they had not established a great enough trust for the dismantling of its entire nuclear program at one time.
The relationship between the two leaders has taken a complete turn throughout Trump’s presidency. Tensions quickly escalated between the two countries early on, with North Korea’s nuclear tests and claims that they created missiles that could reach the United States. In response to these tests the United Nations enforced strict sanctions on the country, which were aimed at the civilian population in an attempt to cripple the nation. Trump later went on to call Kim “Little Rocket Man” and threatened “fire and fury like the world has never seen”.
However, Trump’s attitude towards Kim changed when the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, encouraged talks between the two. This eventually culminated in their first summit in June 2018 in Singapore, where they signed a general statement towards denuclearization and peace in the Korean peninsula.
The future of a prospective deal between the two nations now lies in doubt after the summit. While Trump and Kim may not have another scheduled talk in the near future, negotiations will likely continue between lower-level officials.