U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will hold their second summit in Vietnam on Feb. 27 and 28, the American leader said during his State of the Union speech Tuesday — a highly symbolic choice that offers something for both sides as they seek to kick-start deadlocked denuclearization talks.
“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Trump said, lauding the return of Americans held by the regime and a 15-month halt to nuclear and missile testing.
“Chairman Kim and I will meet again on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam,” he added without immediately revealing where in the Southeast Asian nation the talks will be held. Hanoi, the nation’s capital, and Da Nang, a coastal resort town, have both been floated as possibilities.
“Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one,” Trump said.
Practically speaking, Vietnam was an obvious choice for the meeting. It is relatively close to North Korea, which means Kim can travel there without the need for a layover or borrowing a plane that can travel long distances. It is also nonaligned and has diplomatic relations with both North Korea and the U.S.
The announcement came as the top U.S. negotiator with North Korea, Stephen Biegun, was set to meet with his North Korean counterpart on Wednesday in Pyongyang. Biegun said last week that he hoped the meeting with Kim Hyok Chol would map out “a set of concrete deliverables” for the Kim-Trump summit.
Biegun, who held talks with South Korean officials in Seoul on Sunday and Monday, said in a speech at Stanford University in California on Thursday that he would be aiming for “a roadmap of negotiations and declarations going forward, and a shared understanding of the desired outcomes of our joint efforts.”
Trump and Kim met in Singapore last June in the first summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, a meeting that resulted in a vaguely worded pledge “to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Pyongyang has yet to take concrete steps in that direction, observers have said, and nuclear talks had been effectively deadlocked in the months after the Singapore summit.
The North has repeatedly blasted the U.S. for doing little to reciprocate for the actions it says it has taken to dismantle and destroy some nuclear weapons facilities, demanding that punishing U.S.-led sanctions be lifted and urging a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
In his speech last week, Biegun said the United States had told North Korea it was prepared to pursue commitments made in Singapore “simultaneously and in parallel,” and that Washington is willing to discuss “many actions” to improve ties and entice Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.