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After months of buildup, Hanoi talks conclude early — with no deal

After 8,000 miles of travel and hours of high-stakes discussion, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walked away from the Hanoi summit without a deal. U.S. officials said that while North Korea agreed to reduce its nuclear facilities, their concessions didn't warrant the requested lifting of U.S. sanctions. Nick Schifrin reports on the much-anticipated meeting's abrupt conclusion.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Today in Hanoi, a summit designed to achieve progress toward North Korea's denuclearization, as well improve ties with the United States, collapsed suddenly when the U.S. rejected a North Korean offer.

    And, tonight, the U.S. and North Korea are publicly disagreeing over what exactly that offer was.

    Nick Schifrin begins our coverage from Hanoi.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    After flying 8,000 miles and holding hours of high-stakes meetings with a North Korean leader he considers a friend, President Trump chose to drive away from the Hanoi summit empty-handed.

  • Donald Trump:

    You always have to be prepared to walk. I could have 100 percent signed something today. We actually had papers ready to be signed. But it just wasn't appropriate. I want to do it right. I would much rather do it right than do it fast.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The U.S. says it asked North Korea to close the Yongbyon nuclear facilities that produce plutonium and uranium, seen here in 2005, and what the U.S. suspects is a second uranium plant a few miles away.

    But President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also eyed a rollback of Kim Jong-un's entire program.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    We asked him to do more. He was unprepared to do that. Even that facility, even the Yongbyon facility, and all of its scope, which is important, for sure, still leaves missiles, still leaves warheads and weapons systems. All of those things, we couldn't quite get there today.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The U.S. says North Korea agreed to close Yongbyon but wouldn't go any further. And they demanded what President Trump called excessive sanctions relief.

  • Donald Trump:

    Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety. And we couldn't do that. They were willing to de-nuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted. But we couldn't give up all of the sanctions for that.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But in a press conference 10 hours later, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho refuted the president's claim and said North Korea was only looking for relief from a handful of sanctions on the Korean economy.

  • Ri Yong-Ho:

    If the U.S. removes partial sanctions, 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. This proposal was the biggest denuclearization measure we could take at the present stage,

  • Nick Schifrin:

    North Korea said it offered to permanently halt nuclear and missile testing. And, today, Kim Jong-un said he was interested in denuclearization.

  • Kim Jong-Un:

    If I'm not willing to do that, I won't be here right now.

  • Donald Trump:

    That's a good answer. Wow. That might have be the best answer you have ever heard.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump maintained his focus on his personal connection with Kim, and extended those feelings to the North Korean people, saying he wouldn't increase sanctions, for fear they would suffer.

  • Donald Trump:

    I don't want to talk about increasing sanctions. They're strong. They have a lot of great people in North Korea that have to live also. And that's important to me.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But for President Trump, what was less important, punishing North Korea for the case of Otto Warmbier. In 2016 in Pyongyang, the University of Virginia student was arrested. The next year, he came home to Ohio on a stretcher with severe neurological injury and extensive loss of brain tissue. He died shortly after.

    Today, President Trump issued said Kim Jong-un wasn't responsible.

  • Donald Trump:

    I don't believe that he would've allowed that to happen. Just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen. Those prisons are rough. They're rough places. And bad things happened.

    He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Despite cutting the summit short, President Trump said he hoped dialogue with the longtime U.S. adversary would continue.

  • Donald Trump:

    This wasn't a walk away, like you get up and walk out. No, this was very friendly. We shook hands. You know, there's a warmth that we have, and I hope that stays. I think it will.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And yet the U.S. delegation left without realizing its stated goals: no agreed definition of denuclearization, no road map of mutual actions, no mutual liaison offices.

    Those phased steps were advocated by the U.S.' top North Korean negotiator, Steve Biegun.

  • Steve Biegun:

    We need to advance our diplomacy alongside our plans for denuclearization in a manner that sends that message clearly to North Korea as well. We are ready for a different future. It's bigger than denuclearization.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Instead, as National Security Adviser John Bolton sat at the end of the table, the U.S. demanded major steps toward denuclearization. And the Hanoi summit ended with a banquet table for a planned working lunch that was never used, and a planned shared signing statement that never occurred.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin in Hanoi.

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