U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is ready to help North Korea achieve its economic potential as he and the country’s leader Kim Jong Un began a two-day meeting, but it remains to be seen if concrete denuclearization steps can be agreed upon.
In their second summit in Hanoi, Trump and Kim, smiling and laughing, shook hands, with the 72-year-old president hailing his “great relationship” with the leader in his 30s with whom he once traded harsh insults.
“I think this one, hopefully, will be equal or greater than the first (summit),” Trump said. “And I think that you will have a tremendous future with your country…and I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen, and we will help it to happen.”
Kim said that the two countries have overcome distrust since they last met in June in Singapore for the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, and that he would “do his best” to produce greater outcomes that will be welcomed by all.
In the Vietnamese capital, Trump and Kim are expected to discuss the verifiable dismantlement of the Yongbyon nuclear complex and other weapons facilities in North Korea in exchange for a declaration of a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, or an easing of economic sanctions on the country.
Trump and Kim will sign an agreement after the summit, according to the White House. U.S. officials hope the document will show tangible progress beyond the vague commitments made in Singapore.
Trump will meet with the press after holding what he calls “big meetings” with Kim on Thursday, the White House said.
Given Trump’s apparent eagerness to claim a big foreign policy win in the run-up to his 2020 re-election bid, and his recent remark that he is in “no rush” to denuclearize North Korea, some analysts suspect he may be tempted to focus on less challenging issues such as declaring an end to decades-long enmity with the country.
Asked by an American reporter if the two leaders will issue an end-of-war declaration, Trump said, “We’ll see.”
In a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc hours before the summit, Trump discussed how Vietnam — once an enemy of the United States — could be a model for North Korea in terms of economic prosperity.
As members of the international community, Washington and Hanoi could help “make North Korean into a great economic power,” he said, if Pyongyang abandons its nuclear weapons program.
After the brief one-on-one greeting between the leaders, they proceeded into a social dinner at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, a French colonial-era five-star hotel.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney accompanied Trump at the dinner. Kim was flanked by Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.
Aside from prodding Kim to give up North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, Trump — at the request of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — is also likely to ask that Pyongyang resolve the issue of its abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
At the Singapore summit, Kim had promised to work toward “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, while Trump committed to providing security guarantees to Pyongyang.
Yet there have been few conciliatory signs since then, with the United States demanding North Korea dismantle its arsenal with international verification, and Pyongyang calling for a lifting of the sanctions.
North Korea has also sought a declaration to end the 1950s conflict as a first step toward guaranteeing its security. Proponents say such a confidence-building measure would facilitate denuclearization.
Such a statement is not legally binding and would only represent a symbolic end to the war, which was halted with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
The armistice was signed in July 1953 by the U.S.-led United Nations Command, North Korea and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. If a peace treaty were to be signed, it would undergo a multilateral process involving North and South Korea, the United States and China. (Courtesy Kyodo News)