Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un leave Vietnam without a deal

Feb 28, 2019

THE MESSAGE was hard to miss. “Welcome to Hanoi, city of peace” read the multi-coloured, flashing LED display on the road from the airport into central Hanoi. Placards depicting stylised doves and hands clasped in a deal-sealing shake lined the streets all over town. Even the South Korean pastry chain catering to the press got in on the act and put up posters calling for peace on the Korean peninsula in anticipation of the second meeting between Donald Trump, America’s president, and Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator, in Vietnam’s capital this week.

The decorations turned out to be overly optimistic. On February 28th American officials abruptly cut the summit short, cancelling a “working lunch” and a joint signing ceremony that had been planned for later in the day. Instead they announced that the two leaders would be leaving Hanoi without agreeing on a deal. In a press conference shortly afterwards, Mr Trump said that he and Mr Kim had had a “very productive time” but had ultimately failed to come to an agreement that would work for the United States. “Sometimes you have to walk,” the president told reporters.

That was a surprise. Many observers had predicted a narrow deal, in which North Korea might have offered the dismantlement and inspection of its main nuclear site at Yongbyon in return for goodwill gestures by...

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