Second Trump-Kim summit propels Vietnam to geopolitical center stage

Larry Hoffman
February 7, 2019

"Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one, " he stressed.

President Trump announced a second summit this month with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un the same day that news leaked of a confidential United Nations report detailing the regime hiding nukes and selling weapons.

Vietnam is eager to showcase its diplomatic gravitas on a global stage, following on from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2017 and a regional World Economic Forum meeting a year ago.

Trump confirmed the meeting would take place in Vietnam during his State of the Union address late on Tuesday, also using the occasion to praise the progress made in the "historic push for peace on the Korean peninsula".

Although Trump did not give a precise venue for Summit 2.0, Vietnam's capital of Hanoi and the coastal city of Danang have been floated as possible locations.

Washington is also keen to show off Vietnam's economic success story, touted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to the country a year ago. But although North Korea's tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles have been paused since the meeting, former diplomats and nuclear experts say North Korea is no closer to complete denuclearization and that the US has made huge concessions in the negotiations.

A second nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is scheduled for the end of the month in Vietnam.

Experts say that North Korea will likely seek to offer the demolition of its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center - North Korea's major nuclear site that houses a uranium enrichment facility and reactors - in exchange for a USA promise to formally declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War and to open a liaison office in Pyongyang. South Korea pays more than $800 million a year, but Trump has demanded that Seoul pay 50 per cent more. Picture taken June 12, 2018. In traveling there, Kim would be following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who visited Vietnam in 1958 and was the last North Korean leader to do so.

CNN first broke the story last week, citing a senior administration official familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam said it did not have anything to announce regarding the summit.

Kim accompanied North Korea's top nuclear negotiator Kim Yong-chol when he visited Washington on January 18 for talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In the USA view, North Korea has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons.

It said the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs remained intact and that North Korea was working to make sure those capabilities could not be destroyed by any military strikes.

North Korea and Vietnam, meanwhile, have maintained relations far longer - since 1950 - and share a socialist ideology and histories of command economies.

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