The “official” business of the Hanoi summit is yet to commence today, but there are reports Donald Trump has already caved to Kim Jong-un over denuclearisation.
The US is dropping its demand that North Korea provide a “full accounting of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs”, current and former senior US officials told NBC News.
MORE: Confusion over Kim-Trump dinner date
The demand was a crucial part of a potential nuclear deal, although it’s also contributed to stalled relations between Pyongyang and world leaders in the past.
All in all, this is powerful evidence to suggest Mr Kim doesn’t intend on fully denuclearising, which is the main measure Mr Trump sought during their meeting last June in Singapore.
The report suggests US officials believe full denuclearisation is not going to be possible — a belief the intelligence community has recently suggested is increasingly likely.
Negotiations have focused heavily on the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, a core component of Pyongyang’s program.
Dr Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist who has visited the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre several times, described the centre as “the heart of North Korea’s nuclear program” and dismantling parts of the facility would be crucial to denuclearisation.
Whether the Trump administration can convince Mr Kim to concede on Yongbyon is yet to be seen.
In remarks yesterday, Mr Trump appeared to deny he was “walking back” on denuclearisation.
“We had a very good first summit… Some people would like it to go quicker, but I’m satisfied. You’re satisfied. We want to be happy with what we’re doing,” he said.
TRUMP ON HIS WAY TO MEET KIM
Mr Trump is now on his way to meet Mr Kim.
The President has left the JW Marriott Hotel in Hanoi for the Hotel Metropole, where today’s negotiatins are expected to be held entirely.
It is expected the pair will spend most of the day in negotations before a signing ceremony at around 2pm (6pm AEDT).
Last night, the pair had a private dinner together at the Sofitel Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, from which all but one of the US press journalists were blocked from attending.
North Korean reporters were permitted to attend the dinner.
In brief remarks before the dinner, Mr Trump told reporters he was “satisfied” with North Korea’s path towards denuclearisation.
“We made a lot of progress,” the President said of their first summit in Singapore. “I think the biggest progress was our relationship, is really a good one.
“It is an honour to be with Chairman Kim. It’s an honour to be together in a country, Vietnam, where they have rolled out the red carpet and they are very honoured to have us.
“It’s great to be with you. We had a very good first summit … Some people would like it to go quicker, but I’m satisfied. You’re satisfied. We want to be happy with what we’re doing.”
He said his counterpart was a “great leader” and “will have a tremendous future for your country.”
Mr Kim smiled as Mr Trump shook and grasped his hand while they were photographed by media from around the world.
The North Korean leader said “a lot of obstacles” had to be overcome for the summit to occur but he was “confident there will be a good result”.
The past few months had seen a lot of patience and effort, he said. The pair took turns praising each other, with Mr Kim saying Mr Trump meeting him was a “courageous decision”.
“I am certain that a great outcome will be achieved this time that will be welcomed by all people,” Mr Kim told Mr Trump. “I will do my best to make that happen.”
DENNIS RODMAN WEIGHS IN
Dennis Rodman has issued a statement reiterating his “continued and strong commitment” to assisting in Mr Trump’s dialogue with North Korea.
Rodman, who has an unlikely friendship with Kim and is an informal diplomat of basketball to North Korea, said his “continued friendship” with the dictator remains strong, adding that he looks forward to speaking with Mr Trump about the summit when he returns to the US.
“You are on the cusp of a big, beautiful deal,” he said. “One that would make you the front runner for a Nobel Peace Prize without question. You have my forever and forever support!”
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) February 28, 2019
The former NBA star launched an infamous spiel on CNN last June about how happy he was “for the world” about the Singapore summit.