Trump will have initial meeting with North Korea's Kim on Wednesday evening

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (right) walks with US President Donald Trump during their historic summit in Singapore, on June 12, 2018.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (right) walks with US President Donald Trump during their historic summit in Singapore, on June 12, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for an initial one-on-one meeting on Wednesday (Feb 27) evening in Vietnam followed by dinner with advisers, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Air Force One.

Trump is slated to arrive in Vietnam late Tuesday local time.

On Wednesday morning he will hold a meeting with Vietnamese leaders before the start of the summit with North Korea that evening.

Follow-up meetings with Kim will take place on Thursday.

Speaking in Washington on Sunday, Trump said he believed he saw eye-to-eye with Kim and that they had developed “a very, very good relationship".

Tweeting on Monday, he stressed the benefits to North Korea if it gave up its nuclear weapons.

“With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse. Without it, just more of the same. Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!” Trump said. 

Trump told reporters he and Kim would have “a very tremendous summit.”

In a speech on Sunday night, Trump, however, appeared to play down any hope of a major breakthrough at the Hanoi summit, saying he would be happy as long as North Korea maintained its pause on weapons testing. 

“I’m not in a rush. I don’t want to rush anybody,” he said.“I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”

North Korea conducted its last nuclear test in September 2017 and last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

 
 
 
 

DOMESTIC PRESSURE 

Trump’s departure from Washington comes at a time of increased pressure at home. 

Anticipation has been rising about the impending release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, although a senior US Justice Department official said on Friday it would not come this week.  

Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen is due to testify in a public hearing before a US congressional committee on Wednesday and the panel’s chairman said Trump’s business practices would be a focus of the testimony. 

In a speech on Sunday night, Trump appeared to play down any hope of a major breakthrough at the Hanoi summit, saying he would be happy as long as North Korea maintained its pause on weapons testing. 

“I’m not in a rush. I don’t want to rush anybody,” he said.“I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”

A South Korean presidential spokesman told reporters in Seoul the two sides might be able to agree to a formal end of the 1950 to 1953 Korean War, which the North has long called for as a major step towards normalising ties. 

“The possibility is there,” the spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom told a briefing in Seoul. 

North Korea conducted its last nuclear test, its sixth, in September 2017 and last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.  Before that freeze, the North conducted a series of tests that it says has given it powerful nuclear bombs and missiles capable of reaching the US mainland. 

The United States has for years demanded North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation before any concessions will be granted. North Korea denounced that stance as unilateral and “gangster like”. 

But in recent days, Trump has signalled a possible softening, saying he would love to be able to remove tough sanctions if there was meaningful progress on denuclearisation. 

Easing of punishing sanctions is a top priority for North Korea and it warned Trump on Sunday not to listen to US critics who it said were disrupting efforts to improve ties. 

Trump himself has scoffed at those questioning his handling of North Korea, and added that Chinese President Xi Jinping has been supportive of US efforts. 

LIMITED DEAL? 

Speculation that the Trump administration is open to a limited summit deal has raised expectations that the two sides might finally declare an end to a technical state of hostilities that has existed on the Korean peninsula since the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a truce. 

In return, North Korea could allow international inspectors to observe the dismantlement of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, analysts say. 

The United States could also agree to opening US-North Korea liaison offices and allow some inter-Korean projects, provided the North takes steps toward denuclearisation. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN on Sunday that core economic sanctions “that prevent countries from conducting trade, creating wealth for North Korea... are definitely going to remain in place” until complete denuclearisation. 

However, he suggested there could be concessions in other sanctions against North Korea, such as “exchanges of people, lots of other ways ... if we get a substantial step and move forward”.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, who supports opening up North Korea, praised both Trump and Kim in comments in Seoul, and said those opposed to better ties on the peninsula, and between North Korea and the United States, should “discard such biased perspectives”. 

Vietnam has released few details about arrangements for the summit including its specific venue or timing.  Kim is making his way to Vietnam by train and passed through the Chinese city of Hengyang at about 3.30pm local time, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. That would have him arriving in Vietnam early on Tuesday.