Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 28, 2019

Trump Sticks To Sanctions - U.S., North Korea Summit Fails - Updated

Updated below

The second summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea was held in Hanoi, Vietnam yesterday and today. It failed. The meetings on the last day were cut short. Nothing was agreed upon and signed. No common statement was issued.

Trump held a press conference and gave his side of the talks (transcript). The issue seems to have been the sequencing of abolishing sanctions by the U.S. side versus the destruction of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor complex on the North Korean side.

The U.S. demanded the destruction of Yongbyon and of other complexes before any change in the sanction regime. North Korea insisted on following the sequencing that was agreed upon during the first summit. The joint statement by the two leaders signed in June 2018 defined four clearly sequenced steps:

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Eight month later new relations in form of the opening of embassies or a lifting of sanctions were not established. No peace treaty was signed. North Korea destroyed nuclear testing tunnels and a missile test stand. Some POW/MIA remains have been repatriated. But the U.S. side has taken no steps that could be seen as fulfilling its commitments.

Since the first summit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. media have done their best to ignore the sequencing. North Korea on the other side has insisted on it again and again. It made absolutely clear that it would not budge on the issue. In his New Year speech the chairman emphasized:

If the US responds to our proactive, prior efforts with trustworthy measures and corresponding practical actions, bilateral relations will develop wonderfully at a fast pace through the process of taking more definite and epochal measures.

We have no intention to be obsessed with and keep up the unsavoury past relationship between the two countries, but are ready to fix it as early as possible and work to forge a new relationship in line with the aspirations of the two peoples and the requirements of the developing times.
I am ready to meet the US president again anytime, and will make efforts to obtain without fail results which can be welcomed by the international community.

But if the United States does not keep the promise it made in the eyes of the world, and out of miscalculation of our people’s patience, it attempts to unilaterally enforce something upon us and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic, we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state and for achieving peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.

The "corresponding measures" the U.S. promised will have to come first before North Korea gives up more of its nuclear infrastructure.

As Trump tells it the U.S. insisted on nuclear dismantling first:

Trump: Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that, so we’ll continue to work and we’ll see. But we had to walk away from that particular suggestion. We had to walk away from that.

Q: Will all the sanctions that are currently in existence remain, sir?

Trump: They’re in place. I was watching as a lot of you folks over the weeks have said, oh, we’ve given up -- we haven’t given up anything. And I think frankly we’ll be good friends with chairman Kim and North Korea, and I think they have tremendous potential. I’ve been telling everybody they have tremendous potential, unbelievable potential, and we’re going to see. But it was about sanctions. They wanted sanctions lifted but they weren’t willing to do an area we wanted. They were willing to give us areas but not the ones we wanted.

That the sanctions stay in place is a great disappointment for South Korea. Its president Moon Jae-in had hoped to announce new economic agreements with North Korea. The U.S. will not allow him to proceed.

That Trump came to the summit with the delusion that he could get more out of North Korea before lifting sanctions is a failure of the policy process in the State Department and the National Security Council. They held the preparatory talks and knew what North Korea demanded before it was willing to go any further.

Trump says that even as he "walked away" the meeting ended in a friendly way and without bad words. North Korea, Trump says, will stay committed to the freeze of nuclear and missile testing while the U.S. will stay committed to the freeze of large scale maneuvers around North Korea. Both sides are open to further talks but no dates have been set for them.

If Trump hopes that North Korea will come back and offer more he will be disappointed. Neither will North Korea sit just back and do nothing while the U.S. keeps sticking to its sanction regime. The New Year speech quoted above said that North Korea will "be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country" if the U.S. is unwilling to budge.

History shows that North Korea has always gamed out such talks. It is always prepared to let them fail and it is ready to take the next step whenever that happens. The "new way" may well allude to some new weapon that North Korea is ready to test. Cruise missiles are a possible candidate.

We do not know yet the North Korean view of the talks. Their version is usually published in the official  Rodong Sinmun newspaper a day or two after such talks. It will likely contain hints of how North Korea is going to proceed.

Kim Jong-un came to Vietnam by train. He will travel back through China and will likely coordinate the next steps with the Chinese government. When and how he will take his "new way" will probably depend on the trade talks between China and the United States. If those too fail then all bets are again off.

Update Feb 28 13:00 PM

The North Koreans were not happy with the statement that Trump gave of the end of the talks. They improvised a press conference to give their version. Below is the report by the South Korean Yonhap news agency:

N.K. seeks partial lifting of sanctions: foreign minister

HANOI, March 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is seeking partial relief of sanctions from the United States, not complete relief, in exchange for the dismantlement of its main nuclear facility and other actions, Pyongyang's top diplomat said Friday.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho made the remark at an impromptu press conference at his hotel in Hanoi, hours after a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump failed to produce an agreement.

Ri said the North is specifically seeking the lifting of sanctions under five United Nations Security Council resolutions adopted in 2016 and 2017.

He said those measures were particularly damaging to the North Korean people's livelihoods.

At the summit, according to Ri, the North Koreans also offered to permanently halt their testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

But the U.S., he said, insisted that the North go "one more" step beyond the dismantlement of its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon.

Pyongyang's position won't change even if the U.S. seeks further talks, he added.

A Bloomberg correspondent in Hanoi tweeted from the press conference:

Shannon Pettypiece @spettypi - 7:21 utc - 28 Feb 2019
BREAKING: North Koreans in press conference disputed Trump's account that North Korean asked for removal of ALL sanctions. Said they asked for partial removal of sanctions
BREAKING: North Korean official said they asked for 5 of 11 sanctions to be lifted in exchange for partial denuclearization. Trump's comments made it seem like North Koreans had asked for ALL sanctions to be canceled.
BREAKING: In rare press conference, North Korean official says “Chairman Kim got the feeling that he didn't understand the way Americans calculate” says Kim may have "lost the will" for further negotiations.
North Koreans said "it became crystal clear the United States wasn't ready to accept our proposal" during rare press conference

An unofficial translation of the full North Korean statement is here. North Korea again uses the phrase "corresponding measures". Ri also said that "it became crystal clear that the U.S. was not ready to accept our proposal."


  • What was the "one more step" Trump demanded. Did it come from John Bolton?
  • It seems likely that Kim Jong-un, not Trump, was the one who ended the negotiations.
  • Giving the wrong impression about the sanction lifting request will came back to haunt the U.S. when (if?) the negotiations continue.

Trump reportedly asked the South Korean President Moon to mediate with North Korea about step towards a new round of negotiations.


Posted by b on February 28, 2019 at 07:19 AM | Permalink

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@100 tom... i don't know about that... zero hedge knows how to find the zany story lines though..

Posted by: james | Mar 1, 2019 6:51:42 PM | 101

South Korea won't do squat. They can't as the US recently warned them they have to get US permission to do anything with NK. It was recently confirmed by SK. The US holds the fate of the Korean economy, and their "economic miracle", in their hands by giving them favored nation trade status decades ago. Take that away, add sanctions, add tariffs, deny them access to Swift and the credit markets, and the already struggling SK economy, thanks to US tariffs on China causing Korean exports to tank, is toast. If you're from the US look around. The US is chock full of Korean cars, appliances, telephones, TV's and other electronics. SK has a lot to lose if they go against the US. So do you go for the long term and defy the US and collapse the economy and maybe the voters throw you out or your opposition impeaches you or stay the course. Just as in the USA the last 2 generations have not experienced hardship so will they back the leaders when the economy tanks?

Posted by: snedly arkus | Mar 1, 2019 8:16:28 PM | 102

@100 Tom The allegation doesn't make a whole lotta sense.

"According to reports by Syrian state news agency" well, sorry, but that's not exactly an unbiased news source.

And asked yourself why a "Syrian state new agency" would be saying this but the "Syrian state" isn't also making a song-and-dance over it. It is their gold, after all.

And just to point out the obvious, which is that 50 tons of gold isn't easy to hide.
So there isn't all that much incentive to strike that deal.

Think about it: the gold can't go anywhere, so just kill the ISIS forces and then look under every rock and look in every cave until you find that stash. No "deal making" needed, and no witnesses to the crime.

I think it is much more likely that the USA arranged for the ISIS terrorists to leave because they are on the US payroll. Passage was free, no need to pay up in gold bullion.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | Mar 1, 2019 9:00:56 PM | 103

@104 snedly arkus

Those are all good reasons for the South Koreans not to do anything.

Here's one very good reason why they will do something: millions of Koreans, North and South, are going to die horrible deaths if Uncle Sam keeps leading them down this current path.


The South Korean leadership knows this.
The North Korean leadership understands this.

"Take that away, add sanctions, add tariffs, deny them access to Swift and the credit markets, and the already struggling SK economy, thanks to US tariffs on China causing Korean exports to tank, is toast."

No doubt. Still, you don't end up burnt to a crisp, and that's not nothin'.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | Mar 1, 2019 9:10:55 PM | 104

Below is a link to a report from Reuters and a take away quote that is priceless

U.S. says rejects WTO's 'straitjacket' of trade obligations

The Take Away Quote (how much hypocrisy is possible in one statement)
If the WTO were to overrule the U.S. determination that the tariffs were essential to national security, it “would threaten serious damage to the multilateral trading system,” it said.
Another tidbit from the report was that the WTO will not have enough folks to hear appeals after this December because the US is refusing to allow more appointments.....

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 1, 2019 9:36:06 PM | 105

Posted by: boot error | Mar 1, 2019 5:36:38 PM | 102

Thanks a lot! That explains everything:
"IDF server that hosted its A.I and analytics at Tel Aviv uni crashed unrecoverably because a cat pissed on the power cables.“
So only the pages of its German fanboys and -girls are active:
"Epoch Times"

When, if not know, do we need strong support for Trump?

Posted by: Hausmeister | Mar 2, 2019 5:13:09 AM | 106

@108 OGM I hope that poor cat is OK....

Posted by: Yeah, Right | Mar 2, 2019 7:10:19 AM | 107


Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 2, 2019 11:11:08 AM | 108

This might not be a total failure. Trump ended large scale military exercises the next day...

It is amazing anything has gotten completed to this point especially with the NEOCONS at the table. I am sure Kim has his hardliners he has to deal with as well. The simple fact that Kim opened up and talked to the press is amazing.

Their mainstream daily had positive reviews...

Be patient, this may well resolve itself. Things are moving slowly forward but they are moving. The tone is clear, give up the nuke capacity and we will relent.

Posted by: dltravers | Mar 2, 2019 5:38:21 PM | 109

Posted by: Hausmeister | Mar 2, 2019 5:13:09 AM | 106

Monetisation of videos about Qanon relevant content in Youtube reportedly started after then google CEO resigned his post and left alphabet for a robotics company allegedly. A smear campaign was launched against him from "independent" show producers the likes of Alex Jones, R.Stone, G. Corsi.

Posted by: boot error | Mar 2, 2019 6:12:03 PM | 110

I Belive CIA and "USA Inteligence" would like to know aboult the Psicologic Kim...and After doing another Step...But, Kim is Very pragmatic and he know Pompeu and Boton has a particulare vision about Kim and NK... Trump, Pompeu and Boton them was a mystake about Kim and NK...

Posted by: Jean Valjean | Mar 2, 2019 11:58:16 PM | 111

Did the abrupt end of the summit have anything to do with this?

Posted by: what about this? | Mar 3, 2019 12:47:44 PM | 112

Below is a quote about a recent Trump tweet where he is showing true

Blaming others for your failures is one of the signature tools of Liberace grifter Trump

“For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk,'” Trump said. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!”

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 3, 2019 10:40:59 PM | 113

Let me add to the above that Trump also tweeted today that he was an innocent man.

Hold that up against his screed about "...a convicted liar & fraudster..." Cohen tweet who acted as his main lawyer for how many years?

Trump is America's Liberace grifter president who will take the US into bankruptcy before the 2020 (s)election (I predict)

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 3, 2019 10:49:46 PM | 114

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