HANOI—On Thursday afternoon, as it became clear that lunch between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump was off and that there would be no signing of an agreement between their two countries, storm clouds briefly gathered
over Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi.
In the nearby Metropole hotel, the mood had darkened as well. The summit between the leaders was supposed to kick off a process of some form of denuclearization, through which the two countries would try to build a better relationship. Eventually, the sides hoped, zero-sum “I win, you lose” politics would be replaced by win-win cooperation.
But the United States and North Korea couldn’t agree on the value of the Yongbyon nuclear complex. In a press conference that took the place of the scheduled lunch and signing, Trump said the North Koreans had wanted all sanctions lifted in return for the closure of Yongbyon. At midnight, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho contradicted the U.S. president, saying that his team had only sought some sanctions relief as per five articles adopted by the United Nations Security Council in 2016 and 2017. A Trump administration official later confirmed that Ri’s description was more accurate. Regardless, the two sides couldn’t agree on the core issue, and the summit was abruptly adjourned.