State Dept clarifies the reason talks with North Korea collapsed

Image: SINGAPORE-US-NKOREA-DIPLOMACY-SUMMIT
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (R) walks with US President Donald Trump (L) during a break in talks at their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella...

Donald Trump's nuclear talks with North Korea's Kim Jong-un collapsed this week, and the American president came home empty handed. There's been some confusion, however, about what exactly precipitated the failure.

To hear Trump tell it, the nuclear-armed dictator demanded an end to all U.S. economic sanctions, and in exchange, North Korea would agree to close just one nuclear facility. The American leader said that was far too big an ask, so he walked away with nothing.

But soon after Trump's explanation for what transpired, North Korea's foreign minister told reporters that Kim had only sought "partial" sanctions relief in exchange for the dismantling a nuclear facility.

So, which is it? It's hardly outlandish to think Pyongyang would tell a tale that casts them in a more favorable light, but it's also easy to believe the amateur American president got confused and misstated the details.

The Associated Press reports today that, according to Trump's own State Department, the American president's version of events wasn't quite right. The AP said in this case, it's the North Koreans who are "telling the truth."

According to a senior official who briefed the media on condition he not be named because he was not authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly, the North Koreans "basically asked for the lifting of all sanctions."But he acknowledged the North's demand was only for Washington to back the lifting of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed since March 2016 and didn't include the other resolutions going back a decade more.What Pyongyang was seeking, he said, was the lifting of sanctions that impede the civilian economy and the people's livelihood -- as [Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho] had claimed.... It also didn't come as a surprise. He said the North had been pushing that demand for weeks in lower-level talks.

So, Kim asked for quite a bit, but not what Trump claimed he demanded. The North Korean leader expected sanctions on armaments, imposed during the Bush/Cheney era, to remain in place, at least while the diplomatic process moved forward.

All of which leads to a related question about why Trump's version of events was wrong.

Was the Republican simply confused about the specific details of the negotiations? Did he understand the terms of the proposal, but feel the need to misrepresent them?

Did Trump lose his nerve for some as yet unexplained reason?

The AP article added that Kim was "puzzled" by Trump's reaction. Some White House clarification would be welcome.