The long-anticipated second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump ended early in Hanoi without a joint declaration and with a working lunch between the two leaders canceled.
According to a statement from the White House press secretary, the two parties “had very good and constructive discussions in Hanoi Vietnam… The two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts. No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future.”
A Donald Trump press conference was eagerly awaited.
It appeared to be a highly dramatic turnaround from what had occurred earlier – when the two leaders appeared very chummy.
Earlier, as Day 2 of the highly anticipated North Korea-US summit got underway in Hanoi, Vietnam, Kim and Trump went face-to-face in Hanoi’s Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel. Just before they went into closed-door meetings, they offered a brief press opportunity.
“I am not pessimistic,” Kim said in response to a question from a Washington Post reporter with the White House press pool. While Kim has been in the presence of international and South Korean media, it is believed to be the first time he has fielded a question.
Kim also said that the meeting between him and Trump was “like a fantasy movie.”
Regarding denuclearization, Trump reiterated a key message. “Speed is not that important to me … I am in no rush” Trump said, thanking Kim again for his ongoing moratorium, in place since the end of 2017, on nuclear and missile tests. As for their dinner meeting last night, Trump said: “A lot of great ideas are being thrown around.”
Later, in a break in negotiations, Kim answered another question. “If I was not willing to denuclearize, I would not be here right now,” he said. At the same time, Trump also suggested that the opening of diplomatic liaison offices would be a good idea.
At the negotiating table, Trump is accompanied by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and hardcore National Security Advisor John Bolton, as well as acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. in the Hotel, while Kim is at the table with Kim Yong Chol and Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. His sister, Kim Yo Yong – regarded as a key advisor – is also at the venue, but did not appear to be in the meetings.
A summit declaration signing is anticipated at around 2:30pm, Hanoi time. Trump is expected to hold a press conference around 4pm, before leaving Vietnam in the evening.
Kim’s movements this evening and tomorrow have not been revealed.
The North Korean leader, far from being a “madman” as some media have averred, is increasingly emerging as a sharp knife. Asia Times has learned from a source familiar with the first summit in Singapore that, early in the meeting, Kim unexpectedly posed a question to Trump that indicated a close knowledge of the US president.
Stating that he understood that the US president can usually tell within a short period whether or not he could do business with a counterpart, he asked what Trump thought of Kim, himself. An apparently surprised Trump responded that he thought he could, indeed, do business with Kim. Kim then posed the same question to hardline National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton apparently gobbled at the question, but then responded that he always followed the president’s lead.
Georgey Toloraya, a Korea expert who directs the Asia Strategy Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences, who knew Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, said he was not surprised that the junior Kim has opened up to reporters – which he said is in keeping with his prior behavioral patterns. The “Young Marshal” has proven to be a far more public figure than his hermit-like father, Kim Jong Il, who is only ever believed to have spoken out in public once – to praise the North Korean People’s Army.
“[Kim Jong Un] is very PR savvy,” Toloraya told Asia Times. “He overdid it at the beginning by meeting [US basketball star] Denis Rodman, but he knows pretty well the power of the media and has been successful in using it without spending a penny: He is one of the most recognized personalities in the world. He is not afraid of the media.”
Neither is Hanoi, which is basking in the global media attention the summit is delivering – but not all are happy. A taxi driver this morning, mentioned how irksome it was that Hanoi’s streets were closed for the respective motorcades. Trump and Kim are staying in separate hotels while holding their summit in a third.
Still, the driver seemed to have a command of some key messages. “Vietnam people love peace and freedom!” he explained.