Trump, Kim begin second US-N. Korean summit on a positive note
February 27, 2019
HANOI, Vietnam — President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiled and shook hands Wednesday as they expressed hope for a successful summit while facing pressure to deliver concrete commitments on denuclearization.
Both leaders struck a positive note as they made brief remarks to reporters, then held a 20-minute, one-on-one talk before sitting down to dinner with key aides.
“I thought the first summit was a great success and I think this one ultimately will be equal or greater," Trump said, sitting next to Kim with a backdrop of American and North Korean flags. “We’ve made a lot of progress and I think the biggest progress was our relationship is really a good one."
Trump and Kim first met on June 12 in Singapore, an unprecedented summit between the countries, which have been enemies since the 1950-53 Korean War.
They promised in a vaguely worded statement to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” as well as to improve relations, build a “lasting and stable peace regime” and to recover the remains of thousands of troops killed in the war.
But talks over how to implement that agreement stalled, raising skepticism over the North’s willingness to relinquish its hard-won nukes.
Predicting successTrump insisted the first summit was a success, though he noted “some people would like to see it go quicker.”
Kim said the time in between summits had been filled with “a lot of effort, a lot of thinking and a lot of patience.”
“We have been able to overcome all the obstacles and here we are today,” he said, smiling frequently. “I hope that we can provide an outcome that is welcome by everyone, and I’m sure that we can do this.”
Trump and Kim were later joined around a small dinner table by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim’s top envoy, Kim Yong Chol, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.
The leaders, who arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday, were due to begin more in-depth talks Thursday. Trump said there would also likely be a news conference at some point.
The two-day summit began as Trump faces political turmoil at home, with his former lawyer and confidant Michael Cohen due to offer potentially damaging testimony about the president to a House committee later Wednesday.
Trump tweeted from Hanoi that Cohen “is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”
The White House restricted access to the summit, barring four print reporters from covering the beginning of Trump's dinner with Kim after two of those reporters asked questions of the president during earlier events at the summit, according to reports.
Economic incentivesThe president also reiterated his frequent promise that North Korea could achieve economic prosperity if it agrees to relinquish nuclear weapons.
“I think that your country has tremendous economic potential,” Trump said during his opening remarks with Kim at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel.
“I think you will have a tremendous future with your country. I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen,” he added.
Trump is under pressure to achieve concrete commitments from Kim, who has promised to dismantle his country’s main nuclear material production facility at Yongbyon in exchange for “corresponding measures” from the United States.
The president hasn’t revealed what he may put on the table at the Hanoi summit, but officials and experts say a possible concession could be an agreement to open liaison offices between the two countries, which don’t have diplomatic relations.
Trump also may agree to a declaration symbolically ending the war, which concluded with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
Asked earlier if the summit would result in a peace deal, Trump said, “we’ll see.”
The president also may press for more progress in recovering the remains of war dead as that effort also has slowed after a high-profile return of 55 boxes of bones believed to be of American soldiers.
The U.S. administration has insisted it won’t relax sanctions until it sees fully verified denuclearization, but some officials suggested that Washington could agree to further exemptions that would allow inter-Korean economic projects to move forward.
Too much, too soon?North Korea observers expressed concern that Trump may give away too much without requiring Pyongyang to agree to the long-sought U.S. goal of verifiable denuclearization.
Olivia Enos, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, said she was most concerned about the possibility of a peace declaration and offering economic investment in exchange for the Yongbyon dismantlement.
“I think these both lead to an undermining of the pressure strategy, which has not achieved maximum pressure, not even close,” she said in an interview.
Enos said the peace declaration would be “coming at the wrong time” and could further chip away at the U.S.-South Korean alliance, which already has been hit by differences over cost-sharing and the approach to dealing with the North.
“I think a peace declaration, while certainly not the same as a peace treaty, kicks the can down the road in a direction where we’re potentially removing troops from the peninsula,” she said.
Trump also should seize the opportunity to address human-rights abuses by North Korea, which so far have not been part of the talks between the two countries, Enos said.
Trump has praised North Korea for steps already taken, including the cessation of nuclear and missile tests that had raised fears of a new conflict on the divided peninsula in 2017.
The Vietnamese capital, meanwhile, was enjoying the attention brought by the summit. Men and women on the ubiquitous motorcycles that fill the streets pulled over to stores to buy North Korean and American flags.
Storekeepers did a brisk business peddling summit T-shirts emblazoned with photos of Trump and Kim together.
Trump tweeted earlier that the Southeast nation was a model for North Korea as a communist country that emerged from two decades of war to become an economic success story.
But North Korea was not likely to see it as a model, according to Victor Cha of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Good point but not likely to resonate,” Cha tweeted in response to Trump. “North Korea does not like to be compared with a ‘small’ Southeast Asian country.”
Vietnam has a population of nearly 100 million, four times that of North Korea, but Pyongyang considers itself more “developed,” Cha wrote.