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Thayer Consultancy Background Briefing:

ABN # 65 648 097 123


A Setback, Not a Disaster – the
Second Trump-Kim Summit
Carlyle A. Thayer
February 28, 2019

The summit is over and no agreements were reached. However, President Trump says
he had good talks with Chairman Kim Jong Un. Trump says Kim demanded the lifting
of all sanctions didn’t do enough.
Can you give us your assessment about this result and what is likely to happen?
ANSWER: U.S-North Korea talks on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula were
set back when President Trump would not agree to sign a joint statement. Trujmp said
it was better to have no deal than a bad deal.
The cause of the breakdown, according to Trump at his post-conference press
conference, was Chairman's Kim limited offer to open the nuclear facilities at
Yongbyon and not other facilities that the U.S. wanted access to. It was clear from
remarks by President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Chairman Kim
was not willing to discuss "other options" that the U.S. side had proposed and that the
U.S. refused to lift any of the UN sanctions at this time.
The two parties held open the possibility of future discussions. Chairman Kim
promised not to resume ballistic missile or nuclear tests in the meantime.
The second summit exposed the opportunities and risks of high-level diplomacy
without the necessary preparation by lower level officials. President Trump
continually mentioned his "very special" relationship and respect for Chairman Kim at
his press conference. On the one hand, high-level summitry has succeeded in reducing
tensions on the Korean Peninsula. On the other hand, high-level summitry exposed
differing views on denuclearisation. Trump appears to have overestimated his ability
to be a deal maker in a cross-cultural environment.
Secretary Pompeo said at the news conference he was making progress on a number
of issues with his North Korean counterparts. No side walked away from the table as
there was mutual agreement that an impasse had been reached.
The setback in talks is not a disaster but it is a setback. Trump poured cold water over
the idea of ratcheting up sanctions when he responded to a question by a journalist.
If we take both sides at their word, we should see a resumption of bilateral talks on
denuclearization in the coming months.
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Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “A Setback, Not a Disaster – the Second Trump-
Kim Summit,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, February 28, 2019. All
background briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself
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