It must be deeply disappointing that the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s overlord Kim Jong-un in Hanoi broke down. As a potential nuclear flashpoint, Pyongyang’s relations with Washington was causing great unease in global politics long before tensions between India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, boiled over recently. The Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi earlier this week was eagerly awaited as it was expected to take off from the pathbreaking Singapore meeting in June last year. The first meeting was more about optics, and the Hanoi talks could have made real progress in North Korea shutting its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon. Reports from Hanoi on the abandoned talks hint at a basic misunderstanding over a North Korean demand for relief from sanctions in return for real action on nuclear disarmament.
Mr Trump said that dispute was the deal-breaker and that Mr Kim asked for too much in terms of lifting of all UN sanctions on one of the world’s most sanctioned nations. If the US President had gone into the second round with his old approach of a real estate magnate trying to strike a deal, it only exposes his immaturity as an international negotiator. It is more likely though that given domestic pressure following the charges by his former lawyer Michael Cohen, Mr Trump may have wanted a big deal from Mr Kim or none at all. Mr Kim was said to be seeking a more normal life for his citizens, which would be possible if the economically crippling UN resolutions were lifted and free trading enabled for North Korea. All the hyped-up friendship between the despot and the authoritarian may have come to nought.