That was a most unusual summit meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un last Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam. It ended abruptly, Trump said, when he decided to “walk” in the face of the North Korean leader’s demand to end US sanctions on his nation.
Summit meetings are not meant for negotiations. The nitty-gritty of the various provisions of an agreement is supposed to be handled by lower officials. The top leaders are supposed to come together for the final act – the ceremonial signing of the agreement for all the world to see.
For the Hanoi summit, Trump flew from halfway around the world after touting his special relationship with Kim and citing the prospects of a brighter economic future for a nuclear-free North Korea. The White House announced there would be a “Joint Agreement Signing Ceremony” to be followed by a working lunch for the two leaders.
As for Kim, he took to his special olive-green train from North Korea’s capital Pyongyang which crossed the Yalu River to China ‘s Liaonin province, then proceeded in the next two and a half days on a 4,000-kilometer trip southwest to the border town of Dong Dang, Vietnam, where a motorcade took him over a hundred kilometers to Hanoi.
Trump and Kim then met Thursday morning to start a planned two-day summit but the two leaders and their delegations left the meeting without even sitting for a planned lunch. Trump said the main impediment to agreement was Kim’s requirement that the US lift all economic sanctions on North Korea in exchange for the closure of only one nuclear facility .
North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, however, said Kim only sought “partial” sanctions relief in return for dismantling the North’s main enrichment capabilities for fissile material. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said that Kim lost the will to engage in deal-making as the talks unraveled. There are no plans for future meetings, she added.
President Trump is planning to meet with China President Xi Jinping sometime soon in his estate in Florida and he is upbeat on the prospects of an agreement to end the two nations’ trade war. They better have lower officials agree on all possible details of the agreement so that all they will have to do in Florida is to sign it and end the trade war.
There is also a continuing effort to have President Duterte visit the US. Last Friday, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the President may soon accept the invitation after our May elections, as he has a “very strong affection” for Trump who, unlike former President Obama, has refrained from criticizing the Philippine war on drugs.
This would be a very good idea. An agreement, highlighting our long-standing relationship with the US, could easily be drawn up by Secretary Locsin and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and signed by President Duterte and President Trump as the highlight of a Duterte state visit.