National Security

North Korean Summit Reactions: Even Pelosi Is Happy That Trump Walked Away

Kim Jong-un demanded all sanctions be lifted without committing to denuclearization; Pompeo expresses optimism


After President Donald Trump abruptly ended his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi because the Kim would not agree to denuclearization before sanctions were removed — and the reaction thus far has been mixed.

The leaders were meeting for their second summit to work toward denuclearization and a more peaceful relationship in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Trump had made clear he was willing to remove economic and other sanctions for meaningful progress. But the summit ended when Trump had enough of Kim’s demands that the lifting of all sanctions occur first without any meaningful commitment on North Korea’s part to denuclearize.

Some saw the abrupt ending as Trump’s holding strong in the negotiation process — while others feared the lack of commitment by the rogue nation.

“We have been working, our teams, the team I brought to bear, as well as the North Koreans, for weeks to develop a path forward so at the summit we can make a big step along the way toward what the two leaders agreed back in Singapore in June of last year,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the summit as he stood alongside Trump.

“We made real progress and indeed we made even more progress when the two leaders met,” Pompeo added.

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Related: Trump on North Korea: ‘Sometimes You Have to Walk’

Trump and his secretary of state also told reporters the U.S. was unwilling to make a deal without North Korea’s committing to giving up its missile and warheads program and secretive nuclear facilities outside Yongbyon. Kim asked for full removal of U.S.-led international sanctions in exchange for the shuttering of one nuclear facility.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get all the way,” Pompeo said. “We didn’t get something that ultimately makes sense for the United States of America. I think chairman Kim was hopeful that we would. We asked him to do more and he was unprepared to do that. But I’m still optimistic and hopeful the teams will get back together in the days and weeks ahead.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was happy the president walked away from the compromise offer. But she questioned the point of the summit and even declared Kim the winner of it. She said she was still holding out hope that diplomacy would win the day, but warned that North Korea has a history of shady negotiation tactics and ignoring past deals.

“I guess it took two meetings for him [Trump] to realize that Kim Jong-un is not on the level,” Pelosi said during a press conference. “He was the big winner, Kim Jong-un, by getting to sit face-to-face with the most powerful person in the world, the president of the United States. And really, it’s good the president did not give him anything for the little he was proposing.”

Trump and Kim signed an agreement to work together toward peace and denuclearization during their first summit in Singapore in June 2018. The summit was historic as an important step in the negotiation process. But the agreement in principle lacked specifics on how those goals would be achieved.

Related: Ending North Korean Problem Means Keeping Pressure on Kim Jong-un

“I appreciate the effort by President Trump to reach a peaceful conclusion to the North Korean nuclear threat,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement to LifeZette. “It’s better to walk away than sign a bad deal. There is only one good deal: the complete denuclearization of North Korea in return for security guarantees and economic assistance.”

Many Democrats expressed concern over Trump’s decision to leave the summit. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) argued that the lack of working-level talks in the lead-up to the summit undermined the chances of reaching a successful deal. But he also urged both sides to continue talks immediately so that they can reach an agreement.

“Unfortunately, the summit’s abrupt end means that President Trump was not able to codify in writing North Korean missile and nuclear testing freezes, verifiably halt production of all fissile materials, or secure a roadmap detailing the steps each country would take over the course of negotiations,” said Markey, the ranking member of the East Asia subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement. “It also is a disappointment that President Trump had not spoken immediately with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, two of our closest allies.”

“The president remains committed to achieving enduring peace for the U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump expressed hope, but also some reservations, in the days leading up to the second summit. He said on Monday he was hopeful the summit would lead toward denuclearization. But the president also lowered expectations. He said he did not want to rush anything and was happy as long as there was no nuclear testing.

“While the Vietnam Summit was productive & real progress was made toward reaching an eventual deal on denuclearization, more work needs to be done before President Trump signs a deal,” the Republican National Committee said in a tweet.

“The president remains committed to achieving enduring peace for the U.S. & the Korean Peninsula.”

Related: Trump Is Hopeful His North Korean Summit Will Lead to Denuclearization

North Korea has been pushing the limits on other fronts; intelligence assessments last year found that the regime had increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites for months.

The country has a decades-long history of ignoring past agreements when it gets what it wants.

“President Trump made the right decision to walk away from talks with North Korea after Kim’s outrageous demand to lift all economic sanctions in exchange for minor concessions on his part,” Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)‏ said in a tweet. “Kim responds to strength, not weakness.”

The House Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee held a hearing to review the outcomes of the first summit last year. The panel of experts expressed concern over the lack of substance but were hopeful it was the first step toward something more substantial and detailed what it might take to get there.

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