Trump talks with leader of Vietnam

SUMMIT BUILD-UP::US President Donald Trump and Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong met at the grand, French colonial-era presidential palace

Reuters, HANOI

Thu, Feb 28, 2019 - Page 6

US President Donald Trump yesterday met Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong in Hanoi, hours before Trump was due to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for their second summit.

Trump and Trong, who is also general-secretary of the ruling Communist Party, met at the grand, colonial-era presidential palace.

Trump was later due to have lunch with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Yesterday evening, Trump was scheduled to meet Kim at the Metropole Hotel, eight months after their first summit in Singapore, to discuss efforts to get North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Trump touched down late on Tuesday on Air Force One after flying halfway around the world from Washington, while Kim had arrived earlier, following a two-and-a-half-day train journey from Pyongyang.

On completing their marathon trips, the protagonists of international diplomacy’s most surprising “bromance” were treated to joyful welcomes from crowds of excited, flag-waving onlookers across the Vietnamese capital.

However, much of their schedule is shrouded in mystery and the summit has been preceded by few of the usual preliminary negotiations, with some of the arrangements still being ironed out in Hanoi on Tuesday.

Starting with a 20-minute conversation followed by dinner yesterday, then in more talks today, Trump and Kim aim to build on their startling initial meeting in Singapore in June last year.

“Thank you to all of the people for the great reception in Hanoi. Tremendous crowds, and so much love!” Trump tweeted after reaching his Hanoi hotel from the airport.

Earlier, Kim got a similar reception from excited locals when he visited the North Korean embassy under heavy security.

“Trump is someone who has a strong character. His words are followed by actions,” said one admiring Hanoi resident, Le Dinh-hung, who carried a painting of Trump that he wanted to give him.

Long gone are the days when Trump ridiculed Kim as “rocket man” and Kim responded by calling him a “mentally deranged US dotard.” Now, Trump talks of “love” between them.

“With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse,” tweeted Trump. “Without it, just more of the same.”

With the US Congress investigating Trump for alleged illegal activities and also preparing to try and stop his controversial use of executive power to fund the construction of a US-Mexican border wall, the president would dearly like to change the news narrative by proclaiming a dramatic win.

Critics of Trump say that he is so eager to deal with Kim that he could give away too much in his desire to make headlines, even endangering long-standing allies South Korea and Japan.

In Singapore, Trump took his own generals by surprise when he announced a suspension of military exercises with South Korea — something North Korea badly wanted.

However, the time for empty gestures is also over, analysts say.

“The window for diplomatic progress with North Korea will not remain open indefinitely. The second summit ... must emphasize substance over pageantry,” said Kelsey Davenport of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.