Asia Pacific / Politics

Trump says second summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un to be held in Hanoi

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

U.S. President Donald Trump announced Friday that his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be held in Hanoi at the end of this month as the two sides seek to inject fresh momentum into denuclearization talks.

The announcement came after the top U.S. envoy to North Korea wrapped up three days of talks with his counterpart in Pyongyang.

“My representatives have just left North Korea after a very productive meeting and an agreed upon time and date for the second Summit with Kim Jong Un,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 & 28. I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!”

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun met with Kim Hyok Chol, the North’s Special Representative for U.S. Affairs of the State Affairs Commission, for three days from Wednesday in the North Korean capital, the State Department said in a statement, but gave few indications of any progress in those meetings.

“Special Representative Biegun and Special Representative Kim discussed advancing President Trump and Chairman Kim’s Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming U.S.-DPRK relations, and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said, using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

On Saturday, Biegun met with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Seoul’s chief nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, to brief them on his negotiations with North Korea.

“We have some hard work to do with the DPRK between now and then,” Biegun told Kang, adding: “I’m confident that if both sides stay committed we can make real progress here.

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.”

Biegun had arrived in the South Korean capital from Pyongyang on Friday evening and was to also brief Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, who was sent to Seoul for the briefing the same day, Kyodo News reported.

The State Department also said that Biegun and his counterpart had agreed to meet again ahead of the second summit, but gave no indication of any progress in the talks.

Just weeks ahead of the planned summit, the two sides have at times appeared far from bridging significant gaps over how and if the North will relinquish its nuclear weapons program.

Biegun said last week that his talks in the North Korean capital would be aimed at seeking progress on the commitments made in Singapore and mapping out “a set of concrete deliverables” for the second summit.

In a speech at Stanford University in California last week, Biegun said that he would be aiming in his talks for “a road map of negotiations and declarations going forward, and a shared understanding of the desired outcomes of our joint efforts.”

Pyongyang has yet to take concrete steps in that direction, observers have said, and the nuclear talks were 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, which concluded with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Biegun said in his speech that 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 and that Trump was ready to formally begin the process of formally ending the Korean War.

Trump, eager for a foreign policy win to distract from the ongoing Russia probe and other investigations, had been pushing for a second summit despite the lack of progress on the denuclearization front. The U.S. leader and top officials have repeatedly stressed the economic benefits North Korea would enjoy if it gives up its nuclear weapons program.

In a separate tweet shortly after announcing the summit’s host city, Trump again played up this aspect.

“North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse,” he wrote. “He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is. North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket — an Economic one!”

Beyond economic enticements, experts took special note of Trump’s announcement, which appeared to signal that a peace declaration could be on the table in Hanoi.

“No mention of #denuclearization but Trump is looking forward to “advancing the cause of peace” — hint that declaration on ending #KoreanWar is on summit agenda?” Jean H. Lee, a Korea expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington wrote on Twitter after Trump’s announcement. “That would be a major concession that must be offered only for concrete steps on denuclearization in return.”