Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un arrive in Vietnam for second denuclearization summit

February 26, 2019

HANOI, Vietnam President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived here Tuesday amid heavy security for their second summit, as the president seeks to negotiate the elusive terms for ending Pyongyang’s menacing pursuit of a nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Trump landed at Hanoi’s airport on Air Force One several hours after Mr. Kim arrived by armored train and limousine. Vietnamese soldiers closed about 100 miles of highway from the border with China to the capital city of Hanoi for the final leg of Mr. Kim’s trip.

Military vehicles and soldiers lined the streets around Mr. Kim’s hotel in Hanoi, while hundreds of Vietnamese and tourists strained behind metal security barriers to get a glimpse of Mr. Kim.

“Security will be at the maximum level,” Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Hoai Trung told reporters.

Among the few to get through security were a couple from Hong Kong celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary. They had booked a room in Mr. Kim’s hotel months before it was selected as his temporary headquarters for the summit.

Just hours before Mr. Kim’s arrival, the media filing center set up by the White House in his hotel was relocated to another venue several blocks away. No official explanation was given, but security concerns were believed to be behind the move.

The city’s lamp-posts were adorned with the flags of the U.S., North Korea and Vietnam. Placards and billboards, some bearing the image of Communist Vietnam’s founder Ho Chi Minh, proclaimed the city’s role as host of the high-stakes meeting.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met earlier Tuesday with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and thanked him for the “remarkable work” in preparing for the summit.

“It’s a demonstration, I think, of the relationship between our two countries,” he said.

Mr. Trump is seeking more clarity from the North Korean leader about the precise steps he’s willing to take to dismantle his weapons program. Since Mr. Kim made the pledge last summer in Singapore, there has been scant progress toward that goal.

Mr. Kim is seeking relief from punishing economic sanctions organized by the U.S., and a possible declaration ending the Korean War, 65 years after the U.S. signed an armistice.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim will spend most of Wednesday meeting separately with Vietnamese leaders; the president is expected to sign a trade agreement with Vietnam.

KCNA reported that Mr. Kim has accepted an invitation from Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, to pay an “official goodwill visit” to the Vietnamese government.

Then Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump will see each other for the first time since their breakthrough summit last June, with each leader bringing two aides to a dinner Wednesday night that the White House is billing as a “social” event. Mr. Trump will be accompanied by Mr. Pompeo and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Mr. Pompeo met Tuesday in Hanoi with U.S. special envoy Stephen Biegun, who has been in talks with North Korean officials in Vietnam since late last week.

The detailed talks of denuclearization between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim will take place Thursday.

Lee Gee-Dong, vice president of the South Korean government-run Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, told The Washington Times in an interview ahead of this week’s summit that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome because Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim have a “shared destiny” heading into their meeting.

“President Trump is in a political corner domestically right now and Kim Jong Un is in the same position himself only economically,” Mr. Lee said. “For Trump, he’s facing the upcoming U.S. presidential election next year. For Kim, next year marks the final year of his five-year economic plan for North Korea, when they will take stock of everything they’ve achieved economically over the last five years and Kim Jong Un has to show some results.”

While Mr. Trump has said he’s in “no rush” to wring concessions from Mr. Kim, Mr. Lee said stalled negotiations would be “too much of a political detriment for both of these leaders.”

“They have a need and a demand to keep this momentum for negotiations going and I believe that this will be the prevailing task the two leaders are confronted with,” Mr. Lee said. “This is the ring that binds these two leaders together, and that’s why I’m cautiously optimistic about the prospects for the summit.”

Jun Bong-geun, the head of security and unification studies at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul, told The Washington Times in an interview that “the DPRK wants two things from this summit.”

“One is real and tangible progress toward U.S.-DPRK diplomatic normalization,” said Mr. Jun, adding that this may mean Mr. Kim pushes in the summit for the opening of a U.S. diplomatic liaison office to open in Pyongyang.

“Secondly, economic benefits are what the North Koreans really want,” he said.