North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday arrived in Vietnam for a summit with US President Donald Trump in which they plan to reach an agreement on a North Korean pledge to give up its nuclear weapons program.
Trump was due to arrive in the capital Hanoi yesterday evening.
The two leaders are to meet for a brief one-on-one conversation this evening, followed by a social dinner, at which they are to each be accompanied by two guests and interpreters, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Air Force One.
The two leaders would meet again tomorrow, she said.
Their talks come eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.
There is likely to be pressure on both sides to move beyond the vaguely worded commitment that they made in Singapore to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
US critics have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, urging specific, verifiable North Korean action to abandon the nuclear weapons that threaten the US.
In return, Kim would expect significant US concessions, such as relief from punishing sanctions and a declaration that the Korean War is formally over.
Kim, who traveled from Pyongyang by train, arrived at the Vietnamese town of Dong Dang after crossing over the border from China.
Vietnamese officials were on hand to receive him at the station with an honor guard, and North Korean and Vietnamese national flags.
Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong, who has emerged as an important aide, arrived with him.
About a dozen body guards ran beside his car as he departed for the two-hour journey to the capital, Hanoi.
Roads were closed off with Vietnamese security forces equipped with armored-personnel carriers guarding the route to the city’s Melia Hotel where he is staying.
Both Kim Jong-un and Trump are also due to hold separate talks with Vietnamese leaders.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday. He has been Trump’s top envoy in his efforts to improve ties with North Korea and has made several trips to Pyongyang to negotiate an ending of its nuclear program.
Trump told reporters that he and Kim Jong-un would have “a very tremendous summit.”
Tweeting on Monday, he stressed the benefits to North Korea if it gave up its nuclear weapons.
“With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse. Without it, just more of the same. Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!” Trump said.
However, in a speech on Sunday night, Trump appeared to play down any hope of a major breakthrough at the Hanoi summit, saying that he would be happy as long as North Korea maintained its pause on weapons testing.
“I’m not in a rush. I don’t want to rush anybody,” he said. “I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”
North Korea conducted its last nuclear test in September 2017 and last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.
Meanwhile, analysts say the two leaders must move beyond symbolism.
“The most basic yet urgent task is to come to a shared understanding of what denuclearization would entail,” Asia-Pacific Research Center director Shin Gi-wook said. “The ambiguity and obscurity of the term ‘denuclearization’ only exacerbates the skepticism about both the US and North Korean commitments to denuclearization.”
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