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Saturday, March 30, 2019, 17:44
'Trump asked Kim to hand over nuke weapons' at Hanoi summit
By Reuters
Saturday, March 30, 2019, 17:44 By Reuters

This picture from the DPRK's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on Feb 28, 2019 and released on March 1, 2019 shows DPRK leader Kim Jong-un (left) and US President Donald Trump walking together at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi. (KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)

WASHINGTON - On the day that their talks in Hanoi collapsed last month, US President Donald Trump handed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s leader Kim Jong-un a piece of paper that included a blunt call for the transfer of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and bomb fuel to the United States, according to the document seen by Reuters. 

Trump gave Kim both Korean and English-language versions of the US position at Hanoi's Metropole hotel on Feb 28, according to a source familiar with the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity. It was the first time that Trump himself had explicitly defined what he meant by denuclearization directly to Kim, the source said. 

The document appeared to represent Bolton's long-held and hardline "Libya model" of denuclearization that the DPRK has rejected repeatedly. It probably would have been seen by Kim as insulting and provocative, analysts said

A lunch between the two leaders was canceled the same day. While neither side has presented a complete account of why the summit collapsed, the document may help explain it. 

The document's existence was first mentioned by White House national security adviser John Bolton in television interviews he gave after the two-day summit. Bolton did not disclose in those interviews the pivotal US expectation contained in the document that the DPRK should transfer its nuclear weapons and fissile material to the United States. 

The document appeared to represent Bolton's long-held and hardline "Libya model" of denuclearization that the DPRK has rejected repeatedly. It probably would have been seen by Kim as insulting and provocative, analysts said. 

Trump had previously distanced himself in public comments from Bolton's approach and said a "Libya model" would be employed only if a deal could not be reached. 

ALSO READ: KCNA: DPRK, US will 'continue productive dialogues'

The idea of the DPRK handing over its weapons was first proposed by Bolton in 2004. He revived the proposal last year when Trump named him as national security adviser. 

The document was meant to provide the DPRK with a clear and concise definition of what the United States meant by "final, fully verifiable, denuclearization," the source familiar with discussions said. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The State Department declined to comment on what would be a classified document. 

The Hanoi document was presented in what US officials have said was an attempt by Trump to secure a "big deal" under which all sanctions would be lifted if the DPRK gave up all of its weapons

Trump, meanwhile, on Friday said that he decided not to put additional sanctions on the DPRK last week because he wanted to maintain a good relationship with Kim and because the DPRK people were already "suffering greatly."

"I didn't think that additional sanctions at this time were necessary. It doesn't mean I don't put them on later," Trump told reporters at his Florida resort. 

After the Hanoi summit, a DPRK official accused Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of "gangster-like" demands, saying Pyongyang was considering suspending talks with the United States and may rethink its self-imposed ban on missile and nuclear tests. 

The English version of the document, seen by Reuters, called for "fully dismantling North Korea's nuclear infrastructure, chemical and biological warfare program and related dual-use capabilities; and ballistic missiles, launchers, and associated facilities." 

The DPRK is also referred to as North Korea.

Aside from the call for the transfer of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and bomb fuel, the document had four other key points. 

It called on the DPRK to provide a comprehensive declaration of its nuclear program and full access to US and international inspectors; to halt all related activities and construction of any new facilities; to eliminate all nuclear infrastructure; and to transition all nuclear program scientists and technicians to commercial activities. 

READ MORE: Trump: Deal with Kim thwarted by DPRK sanction demands

The summit in Vietnam's capital was cut short after Trump and Kim failed to reach a deal on the extent of economic sanctions relief for the DPRK in exchange for its steps to give up its nuclear program. 

The first summit between Trump and Kim, which took place in Singapore in June 2018, was almost called off after the DPRK rejected Bolton's repeated demands for it to follow a denuclearization model under which components of Libya's nuclear program were shipped to the United States in 2004. 

This picture from the DPRK's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on Feb 28, 2019 and released on March 1, 2019 shows DPRK leader Kim Jong-un (left) meeting with US President Donald Trump at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi. (KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)

Seven years after a denuclearization agreement was reached between the United States and Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, the United States took part in a NATO-led military operation against his government and he was overthrown by rebels and killed. 

'MISERABLE FATE' 

Last year, DPRK officials called Bolton's plan "absurd" and noted the "miserable fate" that befell Gaddafi. 

After the DPRK threatened to cancel the Singapore summit, Trump said in May 2018 he was not pursuing a "Libya model" and that he was looking for an agreement that would protect Kim. 

"He would be there, he would be running his country, his country would be very rich," Trump said at the time. 

"The Libya model was a much different model. We decimated that country," Trump added. 

The DPRK has repeatedly rejected unilateral disarmament and argues that its weapons program is needed for defense, a belief reinforced by the fate Gaddafi and others

The Hanoi document was presented in what US officials have said was an attempt by Trump to secure a "big deal" under which all sanctions would be lifted if the DPRK gave up all of its weapons. 

US.-DPRK engagement has appeared to be in limbo since the Hanoi meeting. Pompeo said on March 4 he was hopeful he could send a team to the DPRK "in the next couple of weeks," but there has been no sign of that. 

Jenny Town, a DPRK expert at the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank, said the content of the US document was not surprising. 

"This is what Bolton wanted from the beginning and it clearly wasn't going to work," Town said. "If the US was really serious about negotiations they would have learned already that this wasn't an approach they could take." 

Town added, "It's already been rejected more than once, and to keep bringing it up ... would be rather insulting. It's a non-starter and reflects absolutely no learning curve in the process." 

The DPRK has repeatedly rejected unilateral disarmament and argues that its weapons program is needed for defense, a belief reinforced by the fate Gaddafi and others. 

In an interview with ABC's "This Week" program after the Hanoi summit, Bolton said the DPRK had committed to denuclearization in a variety of forms several times "that they have happily violated." 

"We define denuclearization as meaning the elimination of their nuclear weapons program, their uranium enrichment capability, their plutonium reprocessing capability," Bolton said. 

Asked who authored the document, Bolton said it had been "written at staff level and cleared around as usual." 

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