President Trump told reporters in Hanoi he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not sign an agreement as scheduled largely because they disagreed on sanctions.
Mr. Trump, fielding reporters’ questions after the White House abruptly announced the summit would be cut short, explained, “Sometimes you have to walk.” Mr. Trump said he and U.S. leaders decided walking away would be better than giving away too much…
No next summit scheduled at this point, Trump says
Mr. Trump said there is no next summit scheduled with Kim at this point.
That can’t be a good sign.
Trump accepts Kim Jong Un’s claim to innocence regarding Otto Warmbier
A reporter asked Mr. Trump if he has brought up Otto Warmbier, the American who died after being in the custody of North Koreans.
Mr. Trump, in a stunning claim for a U.S. president, said he doesn’t believe the top leadership knew and he doesn’t believe Kim knew. Mr. Trump claimed Kim said he was unaware.
"I will take him at his word," Mr. Trump said.
At least Trump is consistent in naively accepting the word of ruthless autocrats and dictators. He took Putin’s word that he did not attack our 2016 election process. He took Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s word that he did not order the heinous torture, assassination and dismemberment of U.S. resident and Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. And now he’s taking Kim Jong Un’s word that he knew nothing about the brutalization of U.S. college student Otto Warmbeir that left him brain dead and led to his subsequent death.
Trump criticizes South Korea for not funding joint military exercises
Mr. Trump, asked if he would bring back joint military exercises with South Korea, said those exercises are exceedingly expensive. The U.S., he said, is saving lots of money.
Mr. Trump then appeared to criticize South Korea for not paying more for those military exercises.
The big takeaway here is not whether or not South Korea should help fund the exercises, but the fact that Trump is now apparently abandoning them permanently. Why not bring them back until Kim makes some concessions? This is a huge giveaway by Trump and he’s getting nothing in return.
Pompeo: We are closer to goals with North Korea than 36 hours ago
Mr. Trump invited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the podium, where Pompeo said he believes they are closer – he didn’t say closer to what – now than 36 hours ago.
A meaningless platitude.
Trump responds to Cohen hearing
Mr. Trump, asked about a hearing hours earlier with his former attorney Michael Cohen, blasted Democrats for holding the hearing during his summit with Kim.
"I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing," Mr. Trump said.
The president claimed Cohen “lied a lot” but the hearing was very interesting.
The president then launched into his frustrations with the Russia investigation, claiming there is no collusion.
First, there’s no way that Cohen’s testimony affected the outcome of this doomed summit even one iota. Second, it seems inconsistent for Trump to call this a “very important summit” and then exploit it as a platform to complain about being investigated. If he cared about the summit, he’d stay on message and save his criticism of the Democrats until he returns home tomorrow.
Trump has insisted he isn’t interested in speed
“I’ve been saying very much from the beginning that speed is not that important to me,” the president said as he sat down with Kim earlier in Hanoi. “I very much appreciate no testing of nuclear rockets, missiles, any of it. Very much appreciate it.”
Two things to note:
North Korea has suspended missile testing in the past and nothing came of it (1999 - 2005).
As this recent Politico article points out: “Despite a pause in nuclear and missile tests, North Korea’s nuclear program is in fact advancing by the day.”
More from the Politico article:
… While there have been no nuclear- or ballistic-missile tests since 2017, the program is far from frozen; all evidence suggests that North Korea continues to upgrade and expand its nuclear weapon and missile infrastructure…
Here is what we know: North Korea continues to produce fissile material, enabling it to build increasing numbers of nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed as much in Senate testimony last summer. A recent expert report estimated that in 2018, North Korea developed enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium to build up to 7 additional nuclear weapons and that the regime continued to advance “all phases” of its weapons program. As recently as November, the International Atomic Energy Agency observed expanded operations at Yongbyon, the North’s main facility producing fissile material.
North Korea also continues to expand its missile development and production facilities. And as researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies have shown using satellite imagery, Pyongyang maintains as many as 20 undeclared ballistic-missile bases where it continues to advance its missile program. North Korea will not negotiate over elements of the program it does not disclose.
Bottom line: Despite his colossal buildup to this summit, Trump has won zero new concessions from North Korea. At the same time he appears to have made a significant concession to Kim: He strongly implied that we’re permanently surrendering the annual joint military exercises with South Korea (previously, it looked like we were just skipping one while we were waiting for the talks to progress). Trump has also further legitimized Kim’s brutal regime on the world stage by sharing the spotlight with him. Meanwhile Kim has bought more time to advance North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and, based on their proven track record, they will likely resume testing whenever it suits them.
Sadly, it’s hard to find an upside here.