US President Donald Trump to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam for second summit
- American president formally confirms the details during his State of the Union address from the House of Representatives on Tuesday
- The two men held a first meeting in Singapore in June, during which they agreed on a framework for future negotiations
United States President Donald Trump said he plans to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a two-day summit in Vietnam on February 27 and 28.
“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean peninsula,” Trump said in his State of the Union address in Washington on Tuesday.
“Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong-un is a good one. And Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam.”
Trump confirmed the talks would take place after North Korea released American hostages, halted nuclear testing and did not launch a missile in over 15 months.
The meeting would be Trump’s second summit with Kim over the last year and the first time a US president has twice met the leader of the authoritarian regime.
The two men held their first meeting in Singapore in June, during which they agreed on a framework for future negotiations, including that North Korea would begin to work towards “complete denuclearisation”.
South Korea’s Presidential Office welcomed Trump’s announcement.
“The US and North Korea have already taken their first steps towards ending 70 years of hostility in Singapore last year. [Seoul] hopes the two sides will make concrete and practical progress in Vietnam,” Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the Blue House said.
A spokesman for the Vietnamese foreign ministry said the country welcomed the Trump-Kim summit and strongly supported dialogues to maintain peace, security and stability on the Korean peninsula.
The Vietnam summit between Trump and Kim comes after the US president and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met North Korea’s nuclear envoy Kim Yong-chol in Washington last month.
On Wednesday the US envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegan went to Pyongyang to finalise the agenda of the meeting with his North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok-chol paving the way for the second landmark summit.
Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, said the chances of the two sides reaching a practical deal in Vietnam was higher than it was in Singapore.
Cheong said the two main negotiators for the Singapore meeting Sung Kim, the US ambassador to the Philippines, and North Korea’s foreign vice-minister Choe Son-hui, are not seen as being among their leaders’ most trusted advisers.
“In contrast, Biegan has significant authorisation from Trump and Pompeo in the North Korean negotiations. Besides, Kim Hyok-chol is also known to be much more flexible than Choe … Specific details on North Korean denuclearisation and the corresponding US measures may be agreed at this work-level meeting,” Cheong said.
Cheong noted that if the US shows a more flexible approach on the North Korean issue, more practical measures to enhance their relationship could be agreed at the upcoming summit.
He said the talks may cover topics such as the establishment of a US-DPRK liaison office, talks on declaring the official end of the Korean war and a peace process involving the two Koreas, the US and China, the resumption of inter-Korean projects including Kaesong Industrial Complex, rail links and a tourist site at Mount Kumgang open to visitors from the South.
Harry Kazianis, the director of Korea studies at Washington-based think tank the Centre for the National Interest, said one possible outcome of a second summit could be North Korea dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear facility in exchange for some form of sanctions relief.
“While Washington may balk at weakening its maximum-pressure campaign before full denuclearisation occurs, an action-for-action approach would seem the most realistic path forward for both sides,” he said.
Last month after talks between the US and the two Koreas in Stockholm, the South made a list of what it saw as the possible outcomes of a second Trump-Kim summit.
These include, on Pyongyang’s part, the closure under international observation of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, Tongchang-ri missile launch site and Yongbyon, and the discontinuation of all nuclear activities.
As compensation, the US might take steps aimed at, “improving US-North Korea relations, building a peace process and implementing trust-building measures”, the report said.
Relations could be improved with the opening of a US-North Korea liaison office, the commencement of talks on the normalisation of relations, and the promotion of social, cultural and human exchange programmes, it said.
Declaring an end to the Korean war and starting multilateral negotiations would aid the creation of a peace process, while promoting humanitarian assistance and repatriating the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean war would aid trust building, it said.
Lim Eul-chul, a North Korea expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, emphasised that North Korean denuclearisation is “rather a long-term process” because building trust after seven decades of hostility could not be achieved overnight.
“A small deal, where the US and North swap the shutdown of the Yongbyon facility for the partial lifting of economic sanctions, will also be beneficial for the denuclearisation process as it guides Pyongyang in the right direction on denuclearisation,” Lim said.
“We must note that we are still at the early stages of denuclearisation. Even a small deal will be seen as a step forward. These small deals will be combined together to make a big deal in the future.”