Donald Trump thinks he can convince North Korea’s Kim Jong-un his country could thrive economically if he abandons his quest to become a nuclear power.
“We’ll see what happens, but he wants to do something great,” the US President said tonight, adding that Kim could use Vietnam – their hosts for their second summit – as a model for economic revival.
“If you look at what you’ve done in a short time, he can do it in a very, very rapid time – make North Korea into a great economic power.”
Mr Trump has held a series of meetings with Vietnam’s leaders while Kim has remained holed up in his hotel.
There is speculation in Hanoi Kim expects to return home with economic rewards, including partial sanctions relief. But there’s growing worry among analysts that Mr Trump, who will be desperate for an agreement, will give Kim too much and get too little in return – a peace declaration for the Korean War that the North could use to eventually push for the reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea or sanctions relief that could allow Pyongyang to restart economic projects with the South.
Critics of Mr Trump insist he must first get real progress on North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons before giving away important negotiating leverage too soon.
The two leaders will participate in a “social dinner” in the city’s Metropole Hotel, joined by two guests and their respective interpreters. Before the dinner they are expected to have a 20-minute one-on-one conversation.
All false reporting (guessing) on my intentions with respect to North Korea. Kim Jong Un and I will try very hard to work something out on Denuclearization & then making North Korea an Economic Powerhouse. I believe that China, Russia, Japan & South Korea will be very helpful!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2019
The high-stakes meeting will pick up where the Singapore summit last June left off, with the US likely to seek reassurances from North Korea that it is committed to denuclearisation.
There have been reports already that Kim is the one pulling the strings and dictating everything from where the summit was held and where the US media centre could be.
CNN reported the US wanted the summit to be held in Da Nang, which already had secret service clearance for APEC.
But Mr Kim insisted it be held in the country’s capital of Hanoi. He also insisted on taking an arduous 3200-kilometre train journey from Pyongyang to Vietnam — a trip that lasted two and a half days.
Flying would have been much shorter, of course, and would have caused far less disruption to Vietnam’s roads and rails.
It was also reported that a North Korean official was demanding Vietnamese security and staff tell journalists in the lobby not to photograph Mr Kim or the scene around him.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Trump arrived at Vietnam’s Presidential Palace to meet with the country’s top officials.
He met with Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong for a photo op and a meeting, where he praised the “thriving” country and the ties between the two countries.
He also described Vietnam as a “good example of what could happen” if North Korea was to denuclearise.
“We (Trump and Kim) both felt very good about having this very important summit in Vietnam because you really are a good example of what can happen,” he told Vietnamese officials. He also said he was “very proud” of what Vietnam had accomplished economically.
Mr Trump later joined Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and the pair walked past a line of young children waving US and Vietnamese flags.
At one point, Mr Trump stopped and smiled at the children, before waving the flags at the camera.
Sitting down for bilateral talks, the two leaders congratulated each other’s economic performance.
Mr Trump credited Vietnam’s “tremendous progress” under Mr Nguyen, since he last visited the country in 2017. He also praised its military equipment.
More to come