US-North Korea Summit Begins in Vietnam With Trump, Kim Handshake

There are high expectations for Hanoi summit after a vague declaration at the first meeting in June in Singapore.

4 min read
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves upon arrival by train in Dong Dang in Vietnam ahead of his second summit with US President Donald Trump.

US President Donald Trump shook hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of their second summit on Wednesday, saying that the totalitarian state could enjoy a brilliant future if it gives up nuclear weapons, PTI reported.

Trump predicted a “very successful” summit as the pair prepared for dinner at the luxury Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi to follow up on their first meeting in Singapore in June last year.

In a brief sit-down ahead of one-on-one talks, Trump repeated his view that North Korea had "tremendous" economic potential.

For his part, Kim pledged to do his "best" to achieve an outcome that "will be welcomed by all people."

They were due to open with about 20 minutes of head-to-head talks before sitting around a table with only a handful of top advisers. Negotiations were then scheduled to resume on Thursday, 28 February.

Earlier, Trump wrote a tweet touting North Korea's "AWESOME" potential if his "friend" Kim agrees to relinquish his weapons.

The president risks being distracted by scandal back in Washington, where his former lawyer Michael Cohen was set to describe him as a "conman" in bombshell testimony to Congress scheduled for shortly after the summit dinner ends on the other side of the world.

But Trump, seeking a big foreign policy win to push back against domestic troubles, believes he can make history with North Korea – and claims Japan's prime minister has already nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize.

His goal is to persuade Kim to dismantle his nuclear weapons and resolve a stand-off with the totalitarian state that has bedevilled US leaders since the end of the Korean war in 1953.

The Associated Press had earlier reported that the North Korean leader, grinning broadly and waving at a crowd gathered on a cold, rainy morning, stepped off his armoured train on Tuesday, 26 February, after a long ride that started in Pyongyang and wound through China to Hanoi ahead of his second nuclear summit with President Donald Trump.

Kim, dressed in his trademark dark Mao suit, shook hands with officials as Vietnamese troops in crisp, white uniforms and black boots stood at attention on a red carpet beneath large North Korean and Vietnamese flags at the Dong Dang railway station on the China-Vietnam border.

A crowd gathered along the road near the station to wave North Korean flags and bouquets of flowers as the North Korean leader stepped into a black limousine that was then surrounded by burly, crew-cut bodyguards who ran alongside their leader as he left the station.


‘Nuclear’ Kim

Kim's arrival comes as Vietnamese officials scramble to finish preparations for a rushed summit that's meant to deal with one of Asia's biggest security challenges: North Korea's pursuit of a nuclear programme that stands on the verge of viably threatening any target on the planet.

Although many experts are sceptical Kim will give up the nukes he likely sees as his best guarantee of continued rule, there was a palpable, carnival-like excitement among many in Hanoi as the final preparations were made for the meeting.

Officials in Hanoi said they only had about 10 days to prepare for the summit — much less than the nearly two months Singapore had before the first Trump-Kim meeting last year – but still vowed to provide airtight security for the two leaders.

“Security will be at the maximum level,” Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Hoai Trung told reporters.

The ultra-tight security will be appreciated by North Korean authorities, who are extremely vigilant about the safety of Kim, the third member of his family to rule the North with absolute power. Kim's decision to take a train, not a plane, may have been influenced by the better ability to control security.

Vietnam is eager to show off its huge economic and development improvements since the destruction of the Vietnam War, but the country also tolerates no dissent and is able to provide the kind of firm hand not allowed by more democratic potential hosts.

Vietnam has announced an unprecedented traffic ban along a possible arrival route for Kim. The Communist Party's Nhan Dan newspaper quoted the Roads Department as saying the ban will affect the 169-kilometre (105-mile) stretch of Highway One from Dong Dang, on the border with China, to Hanoi.

There are high expectations for the Hanoi summit after a vague declaration at the first meeting in June in Singapore that disappointed many.

In a meeting with senior aides in Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that the Trump-Kim talks would be a critical opportunity to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Moon, who met Kim three times last year and has lobbied hard to revive nuclear diplomacy between the US and North Korea, is eager for a breakthrough that would allow him to push ambitious plans for inter-Korean engagement, including lucrative joint economic projects that are held back by US-led sanctions against the North.


"If President Trump succeeds in dissolving the world's last remaining Cold War rivalry, it will become yet another great feat that will be indelibly recorded in world history," Moon said.

Trump, via Twitter, has worked to temper those expectations, predicting before leaving for Hanoi a "continuation of the progress" made in Singapore but adding a tantalising nod to "denuclearisation?" He also said that Kim knows that "without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the World."

North Korea has spent decades, at great political and economic sacrifice, building its nuclear programme, and there is widespread scepticism among experts that it will give away that program cheaply.

(With inputs from AP and PTI)

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