WASHINGTON — North Korea is disputing President Donald Trump’s assertion that talks with dictator Kim Jong Un failed because the country wanted all sanctions to be lifted.
In a rare press conference Thursday held hours after Trump left Hanoi, Vietnam — the site of the two leaders’ highly anticipated summit — North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said his nation was asking for only 5 of 11 United Nations’ backed sanctions to be lifted.
“If the United States removes partial sanctions, namely remove the articles of sanctions that hamper the civilian economy and the livelihood of all people … we will permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities in the Yongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium, in the presence of U.S. experts and by the joint works of technicians from both countries,” Ri said via a translator.
Ri described the proposal as “realistic,” but said that talks fell apart after the U.S. insisted on additional concessions.
Yongbyon is North Korea’s primary nuclear facility. The two countries addressed steps to dismantle it during the first summit between Trump and Kim last June in Singapore, but no formal agreements were reached.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters traveling with the president back to Washington, D.C. that Trump was aware of the North Korean official’s statement, but offered no response.
While addressing reporters on Thursday in Hanoi, Trump said North Korea wanted sanctions “lifted in their entirety,” something the U.S. couldn’t accommodate.
“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,” Trump said.
While the main goal of thwarting North Korea’s nuclear ambitions failed, Trump tried to put an optimistic spin on the two-day summit.
“I think we’ll end up being very good friends with Chairman Kim and with North Korea,” Trump said. “I think they have tremendous potential.”