Wednesday 16 October 2019

North Korean leader Kim leaves Vietnam after summit breakdown

At the border, he got out of his armoured limousine and clasped his hands, waving to a crowd of people cheering his departure.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Minh Hoang/AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Minh Hoang/AP)

By Foster Klug and Emily Wang, Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has boarded his private train at the Vietnam-China border for a 60-plus-hour ride home, ending a trip to Vietnam that saw a summit breakdown with President Donald Trump.

He spent his last day in Hanoi laying large red-and-yellow wreaths at a war memorial and at the mausoleum of national hero Ho Chi Minh, surrounded by Vietnamese soldiers and his own entourage of top North Korean officials.

At the border, he got out of his armoured limousine and clasped his hands, waving to a crowd of people cheering his departure.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves at Dong Dang railway station (Minh Hoang/AP)

Since President Trump flew home to Washington, Mr Kim has stepped assuredly into the spotlight, keen to show himself as a poised leader taking his rightful place on the international stage.

He met on Friday with President Nguyen Phu Trong, the country’s top leader and Communist Party chief, grinning broadly as he was feted by top officials and escorted down a red carpet.

As Mr Kim met with officials in Hanoi, the United States and North Korea have both been spinning their versions of what happened during one of the most high-profile diplomatic collapses in recent years.

On Saturday, Mr Kim walked slowly behind a wreath with his name on it and a message that said, “I mourn the heroes and patriotic martyrs”, as it was taken to the Monument to War Heroes and Martyrs.

He also oversaw the presentation of a large wreath at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where he bowed and walked inside.

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Mr Kim attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Monument to War Heroes and Martyrs in Hanoi (Kham/AP)

Talks between Mr Kim and President Trump broke down on Thursday, the second day of their two-day summit, in a dispute over how much sanctions relief Washington should provide Pyongyang in return for nuclear disarmament steps.

Despite a senior North Korean official’s suggestion — in a rushed, middle-of-the-night news conference called to dispute President Trump’s version of the summit’s end — that Mr Kim may have “lost the will” for diplomacy, the North Korean leader seems to have emerged from the diplomatic wreckage as a winner.

Mr Kim answered questions with humour and ease when confronted by an aggressive international media contingent here.

And, crucially for his image at home, he stood firm on his demands for the relief of sanctions imposed over a nuclear programme North Korea says it built in the face of unrelenting US hostility meant to end its leadership.

North Korea said it had asked for partial sanctions relief in return for closing its main nuclear site at Yongbyon, an important nuclear-fuel production facility but not the only place the North is believed to make bomb fuel.

The United States also has been spinning the summit breakdown, with senior officials saying that North Korea wanted billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return for only partial dismantlement of Yongbyon, and demanded the North scrap more of its nuclear programme for such a high level of concessions.

PA Media

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