The breakdown in bilateral negotiations came as a surprise. A few hours earlier, Trump and Kim had struck a positive tone of mutual optimism. The North Korean leader even took a question from the White House press pool, an unprecedented move that came as Trump assured there would be “no rush” to denuclearize North Korea.
Trump did not change his assessment of Kim, who he has called his “friend.”
“We’ll end up good friends,” Trump said, adding North Korea has “tremendous potential” that has some of the “most beautiful shorelines in the world.”
The president also said the North Koreans were “willing to give us areas” for weapons disclosure, but “not the ones we wanted.”
Trump confirmed the two sides “absolutely” discussed the Yongbyon nuclear facility, a production base for plutonium.
“But [Kim] wanted the sanctions off first,” Trump said, adding the North Koreans were “surprise we know…about [a] second uranium enrichment plant.”
Even the dismantlement of Yongbyon “still leaves warheads and weapons systems,” Trump said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who took to the podium at intervals, said the two sides “made real progress.”
“Unfortunately we did not get all the way,” he said.
During his press conference following the breakdown of talks, Trump also said his former attorney Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee in Washington was a “fake hearing.”
Cohen had told the committee his ex-boss is a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat.”
“Having a fake hearing like that, having it in the middle of this important summit was a terrible thing. They could have made it two days later,” Trump said.
Trump said Kim promised no nuclear or missile testing despite the lack of agreement.
“We just like each other,” he said.