Asia Pacific / Politics

Vietnam emerging as front-runner to host second Trump-Kim Jong Un summit

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

Vietnam has emerged as the apparent front-runner for hosting a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, after a second report cited the Southeast Asian country as a potential host city.

The U.S. side has proposed to the North holding the talks in Vietnam in mid-February, the Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported Sunday, citing unidentified sources, as expectations grow that a second summit could help break the stalemate in ongoing denuclearization negotiations.

The report said Pyongyang was reviewing the U.S. proposal and had yet to give a formal response.

Sunday’s news echoed an earlier report by the South Korean daily Munhwa Ilbo, which said that Trump and Kim could meet in Vietnam’s capital for the summit.

Hanoi is a longtime ally of Pyongyang that has seen its relations with Washington improve in recent years. The country hosted North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, though it was unclear if the summit was discussed. South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper previously reported that Mark Lambert, a senior U.S. State Department official handling North Korea issues, had visited Vietnam last month, though it was not known if he was in the country at the same time as Ri.

Hanoi, which is less than 3,000 km from Pyongyang, appears to be an acceptable host site: It is accessible for both leaders, boasts top-flight hotels, and the ruling Communist Party maintains a security apparatus that would be able to prevent protests. It also has experience in hosting high-level events such as the APEC forum.

Other countries that have emerged as potential candidates include Thailand, Indonesia and Mongolia.

Trump said last week that discussions on the location are underway and that further details will be announced soon.

“We are negotiating a location,” he said.

The White House has remained evasive on the exact timing of the summit, though officials have previously said they expect the meeting to happen sometime early this year.

“It will be announced probably in the not too distant future. They do want to meet and we want to meet and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Trump, who held a landmark summit with Kim in Singapore in June that resulted in a vaguely worded pledge “to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” said earlier this month that he had received a “great letter” from the North Korean leader but declined to reveal its contents.

The latest letter from Kim came after he said in a New Year’s speech that while he was willing to meet Trump again at any time to produce results “welcomed by the international community,” Pyongyang could change its approach to nuclear talks if Washington persists with crippling sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

In his address, Kim urged the United States to take reciprocal measures in exchange for denuclearization steps the North Korean dictator has claimed his country has taken since last year.

Experts say the North likely expects these measures to include some form of eased sanctions and that any chance of a successful second summit could hinge on this.

For his part, Trump said last week that the sanctions will remain “in full force and effect” until the United States sees “very positive” results.

China — which Kim visited last week — and Russia have both pushed for an easing of the crushing sanctions on North Korea that Pyongyang says is halting its attempt to fix its moribund economy.

Kim devoted a large chunk of his New Year’s address to reiterating his shift in focus from nuclear weapons to rebuilding the economy.

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