US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cut short their summit schedule during a second day of talks in Vietnam on Thursday, but it was not clear whether it was because of a deadlock in their nuclear negotiations.
Earlier, both Trump and Kim had expressed hope for progress on improving relations and on the key issue of denuclearisation, in their talks in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.
But in a change of schedule, the White House said Trump’s media conference planned for after the summit was moved forward by almost two hours to 2:00 pm.
Trump had been scheduled to hold a ’joint agreement signing ceremony’ with Kim at that time, at the conclusion of their summit talks, according to an earlier White House announcement.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders declined to comment on whether the two leaders would still hold the ceremony.
’The negotiations are on-going. We expect ... that to wrap up in the next half hour,’ she told reporters.
News of the change in schedule sent South Korea’s stock market and currency lower.
Earlier Kim and Trump, seated across from each other at a conference table, appeared confident of progress.
’If I’m not willing to do that, I won’t be here right now,’ Kim told reporters through an interpreter, when asked if he was ready to give up his nuclear weapons.
Trump, responding to that, said: ’That might be the best answer you’ve ever heard.’
Kim did not elaborate on what ’denuclearisation’ would entail, but asked if he was ready to take concrete steps, Kim said they had just been talking about that.
’Hope you give us more time to talk. Even a minute is precious,’ he told reporters.
While the United States is demanding North Korea give up all of its nuclear and missile programmes, the North wants to see the removal of a US nuclear umbrella for its Asian allies such as South Korea and Japan.
The two leaders’ summit in Singapore in June, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, produced a vague statement in which Kim pledged to work toward denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
But there has been little progress since.
Kicking off the second day of talks at the French-colonial-era Metropole hotel earlier, Trump again stressed the talks aimed at tackling North Korea’s nuclear threat should not be rushed.
’I’ve been saying very much from the beginning that speed is not that important to me. I very much appreciate no testing of nuclear rockets, missiles, any of it, very much appreciate it,’ Trump told reporters before his session with Kim.
’Chairman Kim and myself, we want to do the right deal.’
North Korea has conducted no nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests since late 2017.
Kim, asked by a reporter if he was confident about a deal, said, through an interpreter:
’It’s too early to tell, but I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic. For what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come out,’ he said, in what was believed to be his first ever response to a foreign journalist.
’There must be people who watch us having a wonderful time, like a scene from a fantasy movie. We have so far made lots of efforts, and it’s time to show them,’ Kim said.
Trump reiterated North Korea’s potential, if a deal can be done, saying the isolated country could be an ’economic powerhouse’.