Choi Son Hui’s Remarks on the Failed Summit

In an unprecedented press briefing held February 28th (Hanoi time), North Korean special nuclear negotiator and Vice-Foreign Minister Choi Son Hui (beginning at minute 3:30 in the linked video) explains why the US-DPRK Hanoi Summit failed.

As far as we can tell from the poor recording, she says that North Korea offered to dismantle the vast Yongbyon complex which it never had offered before. They also offered to formalize suspension of all nuclear and ICBM testing. In exchange, they asked for partial sanctions relief.

This much is said by the North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho in the first half of the press conference. Choi Son Hui clarifies exactly what the North Koreans requested in terms of sanctions relief.

They did not request the removal of all sanctions as US President Trump stated in his press conference several hours before. It just involved the five most recent sanctions imposed since 2016. Further, it did not involve those five sanctions in entirety. She exampled that they requested the lifting of parts of those sanctions that burdened the civilian economy – those involve people’s livelihood and uses. Likely she meant that military related sanctions could remain for now.

To this, she said that the US responded by saying that no sanctions relief would be forthcoming and demanded that North Korea disclosure and dismantle all or most other facilities (this may not be clear from the press conference).

The talks fell apart and she said that as she sat next to Chairman Kim Jong Un, she had the feeling that he must find it difficult to comprehend [more like “tolerate”] the American method of negotiating [more like “attitude”], seeing that the US won’t budge on even a partial lifting of sanctions in exchange for the dismantling of a vast complex as Yongbyon. She said she wondered if her leader Kim might have lost the will to further negotiate with the Americans… She does not know when such an opportunity will come up again for the Americans.

Whether the North Korean request for partial sanctions relief is new or not and in exactly what order the offers and demands were placed are not clear. But it is greatly disappointing and indeed surprising that the leaders of the two countries failed after traveling such great distances, burdening so many people including the Vietnamese hosts, and creating so much anticipation for a break-through. Once again, this was an opportunity lost.

On a side note, it’s interesting that whenever an American reporter throws out a question, it’s about human rights and Otto Warmbier. It’s like the unfortunate death of one person is more important than eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons for hundreds of millions of people. These reporters do not care about substance and the public interest but media hype and sensationalism. They went all the way to Vietnam to ask a question that is totally unrelated to the purpose of the forum.

Photo: Screenshot from the linked video.