Trump says N. Korea can thrive like Vietnam

This APF photo shows U.S President Donald Trump (L) shaking hands with Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on Feb. 27, 2019. (Yonhap)

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HANOI, Feb 27, 2019, Yonhap. Hours ahead of a high-stakes meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the communist nation will prosper fast like Vietnam if it denuclearizes, reported the Yonhap.

“Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize,” Trump tweeted in his first public message about Pyongyang since arriving in Hanoi a day earlier.

He added: “The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon – Very Interesting!”

Meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong, Trump also attached meaning to the choice of Vietnam as the location for his first talks with Kim in eight months.

“We both felt very good about having this very important summit in Vietnam because you really are an example of what can happen with good thinking,” Trump told him at the Presidential Palace.

The Southeast Asian nation, once a U.S. foe as well, is touted as a possible model for North Korea in its efforts for economic development.

Trump, a former businessman, is trying to nudge Kim to choose the path of getting rid of the country’s nuclear weapons and opening up its economy.

In their previous summit in Singapore eight months ago, Trump showed Kim a Hollywood-style trailer on an iPad featuring the vision of North Korea’s economic growth free from sanctions.

He is expected to deliver a similar message directly to the young leader, reportedly educated in Europe, in this week’s talks here to focus on detailed ways for denuclearization, improvement of bilateral relations and lasting peace.

Kim, meanwhile, has not left his hotel since he returned from a visit to his country’s embassy on Tuesday.

Trump and Kim plan to meet for about two hours later Wednesday at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel.

After arriving at 6:30 p.m. there, they will have a one-on-one meeting for 20 minutes before sitting down for a small group “social dinner” that will run for one hour and 35 minutes, according to the White House.

The other U.S. participants are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. National Security Advisor John Bolton, known for his hawkish views on North Korea, is also in Hanoi for the summit but he has not been invited.

Kim will be accompanied by Kim Yong-chol, a top Workers’ Party official who met Trump in Washington D.C., and an “as yet unknown third associate.” The leader may bring his sister and key aide, Kim Yo-jong.

Kim and Trump are expected to start the warm-up meetings, exchanging pleasantries in a bid to demonstrate their budding chemistry. The mood is likely to serve as a litmus test of this week’s summit results that may decide the future of the nascent peace process spearheaded by the showy leaders.

Full-fledged negotiations on core and sensitive summit agenda items are expected to take place on Thursday, the last day of their Hanoi session aimed at following up on their agreement reached at their first meeting in Singapore in June.

Senior nuclear envoys of the two sides are believed to have drafted a rough joint statement, while filling in some blanks on sensitive issues is up to the leaders’ bargaining.

After checking into his hotel in Hanoi on Tuesday, Kim received a “detailed” briefing from his negotiators who had preliminary talks with U.S. officials in recent days, Pyongyang’s state news agency, the KCNA, reported.

Drawing keen attention is whether the leaders will reach meaningful agreements on the fate of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, the heart of North Korea’s nuclear program, and other major facilities connected to its weapons of mass destruction development.

Trump’s priority is to win a deal on freezing their operations. A best-case scenario for the self-styled master negotiator is securing Kim’s promise to shut down the Yongbyon compound in a verifiable and irreversible way, plus a timetable on full denuclearization.

Potential benefits for Pyongyang include a political end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, sanctions relief and the continued suspension of regular combined military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.

Quoting multiple unnamed sources, Vox, a U.S news outlet, reported that the two sides have reached a tentative deal on a “peace declaration” symbolically ending the war and plans to exchange liaison officers in each other’s capitals.

Some observers also said Kim and Trump may agree to establish “working groups” for their negotiators to continue discussions on major pending, complicated issues including concrete denuclearization steps.

Trump again dismissed criticism at home on his “top-down” approach toward Pyongyang. He argued that he’s doing better than his predecessor, Barack Obama, when it comes to the matter.

“The Democrats should stop talking about what I should do with North Korea and ask themselves instead why they didn’t do ‘it’ during eight years of the Obama Administration?,” he wrote in a separate Twitter posting.

The self-style master negotiator has signaled that time is on his side, repeatedly saying that he is “in no rush.” He said the Hanoi meeting with Kim won’t be the last, effectively lowering public expectations on the summit outcome this time.

While the North Korean leader has stayed at his hotel, his aides made on-site inspections of some fruits of Vietnam’s Doi Moi reform measures.

A team of North Korean officials visited Ha Long Bay, a popular tourist destination located east of Hanoi, and they headed to visit Hai Phong, a major port and industrial city in northeastern Vietnam.

The delegation includes Ri Su-yong, who is in charge of international affairs at the Workers’ Party of Korea, and O Su-yong, known to be in charge of the ruling party’s economic affairs.

Hai Phong, some 110 kilometers from Hanoi, is home to a number of high-tech businesses run by Vingroup, a Vietnamese conglomerate, including a factory of VinFast, the nation’s first high-volume automotive manufacturer.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un is likely to meet the Vietnamese leaders during his two-day “official goodwill” visit to the Southeast Asian nation to follow on the heels of the summit with Trump. The Vietnamese government earlier announced that Kim has a plan for what it called a “friendly official” trip but did not specify a date.

Kim plans to make the official visit on Friday and Saturday, KCNA reported.

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