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Trump and Kim Jong Un won’t sign a deal in Vietnam

It’s not necessarily a failure, but it’s not good either.

President Trump walks with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during a break in talks at the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 28, 2019.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un won’t sign a deal in Vietnam after all.

In an abrupt change, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that Trump’s press conference, originally scheduled for around 4 am, will now start two hours earlier. But that’s when Trump and Kim planned to host a signing ceremony for a potential agreement like they did last year in Singapore. About an hour after that, Sanders told reporters in Hanoi, “No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future.”

The statement also mentions that “[t]he two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts.” That may indicate talks fell through over Yongbyon, a key North Korean nuclear facility, where Kim would agree to stop producing materials for nuclear bombs. In exchange, Trump would push to lift some United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang so it could pursue joint economic projects with South Korea.

Screenshot of Sarah Sanders statement sent by the White House on February 28, 2019.
Screenshot of Sarah Sanders statement sent by the White House on February 28, 2019.
Alex Ward/Vox

Whatever the reason, the failure to sign a deal in Hanoi became apparent when reporters took photos of an empty dining room where US and North Korean delegates were supposed to have a working lunch.

This isn’t a necessarily a diplomatic failure, but it isn’t good

This is shocking.

World leaders typically don’t hold major summits like the two-day affair in Hanoi unless they can achieve something. And many signs pointed to Trump and Kim making another pact, with some speculating they would even sign a peace declaration to symbolically end hostilities toward one another.

That’s not happening now. Trump is expected to explain the situation during his press conference around 2 am — although he basically communicated the issue to press already.

In multiple statements, Trump insisted that his administration is in “no rush” to sign a deal to rid North Korea of its nuclear program. He even told reporters during the summit that a new pact will take time and that “no matter what happens we’ll ultimately have a deal that’s really good for Chairman Kim and his country.” It’s therefore possible they couldn’t strike a deal in Hanoi, but they may do so at a later date.

But as of now, it looks like Trump and Kim traveled all the way to Vietnam and came away with nothing.