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N. Korea's demand to lift all sanctions sinks chances of summit deal

HANOI -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's demand that the United States fully lift its sanctions on Pyongyang, which caused the bilateral summit meeting to break up, came unexpectedly to Washington, which was desperate to make diplomatic achievements.

The failure to produce any results in top-level diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang has cast a shadow over future bilateral talks.

Observations spread that the second summit meeting between Trump and Kim broke down after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that a luncheon meeting and a ceremony to sign a joint statement had been canceled.

"He (Kim) wants to denuke, but he wants to just do areas that are less important than the areas that we want," Trump told a news conference as he explained the reason why Washington chose not to fully lift sanctions on Pyongyang.

"We just felt it wasn't appropriate to sign an agreement today," Trump added.

However, Sophia University professor Kazuhiro Maejima, who is well versed in U.S. politics, explained the president does not regard his latest summit with Kim as a failure.

"Top-level diplomacy is usually regarded as a failure if a pre-summit accord is reached in working-level talks but the summit collapses. However, Trump doesn't regard the latest summit as a failure but rather part of the process of negotiations," he said.

Still, it is highly likely that the White House, which had announced the schedule of signing a joint statement the previous day, had not foreseen that Pyongyang would demand that sanctions be completely lifted.

Prior to the talks, the United States switched to an approach of giving North Korea rewards on a step-by-step basis in response to progress in denuclearization in a bid to draw concessions from Pyongyang. Washington attempted to persuade Pyongyang to dismantle not only the Yongbyon nuclear complex but also other nuclear facilities and share a road map toward denuclearization with Pyongyang.

However, North Korea went on the offensive in its demand that the United States lift all sanctions on Pyongyang as if it took advantage of Washington's desperate bid to make diplomatic achievements to overcome the fragile power base for the Trump administration rocked by the Russia scandal. Trump and his aides obviously lacked preparations and a strategy for the summit.

Hitotsubashi University professor Nobumasa Akiyama specializing in arms reductions and nuclear non-proliferation, pointed out that the failure to reach an agreement at the summit could adversely affect future bilateral talks on denuclearization.

"It was good for the security environment for Japan that Mr. Trump didn't make an easy compromise with North Korea to lift sanctions in return for giving up the Yongbyon complex. However, since both leaders went home empty handed, their evaluations in their respective countries could fall. Close attention should be focused on how the situation could affect future denuclearization talks," he said.

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized at the news conference that the two countries will continue dialogue.

Both Trump and Kim are expected to continue dialogue. However, the schedule for the third summit between Trump and Kim has not been fixed yet. It is now extremely difficult for steps toward the denuclearization of North Korea to regain their lost momentum.

(Japanese original by Kota Takamoto, North America General Bureau)

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