Kim arrives in Hanoi for nuclear summit with Trump

Kim Jong Un arrived in Hanoi to throngs of cheering, flag-waving crowds on Tuesday, on the eve of a second summit with US president Donald Trump with the world closely watching for tangible progress over North Korea’s nuclear programme.

After a historic initial meeting in Singapore in June that produced only a vague statement about denuclearisation, analysts say the second date must deliver more concrete steps towards dismantling Pyongyang’s arsenal.

READ MORE: Pompeo heads to Pyongyang, seeking progress on Trump-Kim summit

The normally sleepy Vietnamese border station of Dong Dang spruced itself up for Kim’s arrival after the young leader’s 4 000-kilometre, two-and-a-half-day odyssey through China aboard his olive green train.

A military guard of honour in pristine white uniforms presented arms as Kim strolled down the red carpet waving and grinning, surrounded by a phalanx of aides and security personnel.

Local official Hoang Thi Thuy said she had waited in the cold rain since before dawn for a glimpse of Kim, the first North Korean leader to visit fellow one-party state Vietnam since his grandfather Kim Il Sung in 1964.


“I was so excited when we were told to stand in place for the arrival of the train,” she told AFP. “We saw the leader from afar. I felt so happy, it’s hard to describe.”

Wearing his trademark Mao-style black suit and flanked by his troops of bodyguards, Kim was ushered into a waiting Mercedes-Benz and his motorcade rolled off towards Hanoi, where armoured personnel carriers patrolled the roads amid ultra-tight security.

He was greeted in Hanoi by cheering crowds behind barriers near the colonial-era pastel yellow Hanoi Opera House before arriving at the Melia hotel where he was expected to stay this week.

Trump was taking a more conventional route on Air Force One to the meeting and was expected to arrive in Hanoi late Tuesday. He tweeted he was looking forward to a “very productive” second summit.

The US president again dangled the carrot of economic progress for North Korea if it gives up its nuclear programme.

“With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse,” tweeted Trump. “Without it, just more of the same.”

“Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!”

Relations between the two mercurial leaders have undergone a dramatic turnaround, from flinging personal insults and threats of destruction to Trump declaring he had fallen “in love” with Kim through an exchange of letters.

But many North Korea watchers dismissed the Singapore summit as a piece of political theatre that failed to produce a concrete roadmap to denuclearisation and stressed that the Hanoi meeting must deliver more.

“The window for diplomatic progress with North Korea will not remain open indefinitely. The second summit… must emphasise substance over pageantry,” said Kelsey Davenport from the Arms Control Association.

Concrete details about the summit have been few and far between but White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One the two leaders would dine together Wednesday with close advisors.

‘No testing, we’re happy’

Diplomatic progress since Singapore has stalled over the definition of denuclearisation, with Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, admitting there was no “shared agreement” of what that means.

The United States has repeatedly demanded the North give up its nuclear arsenal in a final, fully verifiable way.

But Pyongyang sees denuclearisation more broadly, seeking an end to sanctions and what it sees as US threats — usually taken to include the American military presence in the South, and sometimes in the wider region.

In the run-up to the summit, Trump appeared to lower US demands for Pyongyang, repeatedly saying there was no rush to rid the North of its arsenal as long as missile and nuclear tests stopped.

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

He also hinted more summits could follow the Hanoi meeting, reducing expectations of a dramatic breakthrough in the Vietnamese capital.

Pyongyang insists it has already taken major steps, by not testing ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons for more than a year, and blowing up the entrances to its atomic test site.

The North also wants increased security guarantees, which could come in the form of a declaration of an end to the 1950-53 Korean War — that culminated with an armistice instead of a full peace treaty — or opening liaison offices.

Opening liaison offices would signal the first stage of normalising US-North Korean relations, said Go Myong-hyun of the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, and would be an ideal “politically symbolic step” rather than prematurely agreeing to sanctions relief.

Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest said: “Nothing would be worse than for either side to come out of the meeting as if it was a waste of time.”

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Jenny Vaughan
Jenny Vaughan
AFP Vietnam bureau chief based in Hanoi, via Hong Kong, Washington, Ethiopia, Ghana and Uganda.
Richard Carter
Richard Carter
News editor for @afp in Japan. Former Europe/Africa desk chief. Ex Berlin, Brussels, Paris.

Related stories

Malawi elections provide a global lesson in democracy

COMMENT: Opposition candidates and party can increase their chances of success at the polls by putting aside minor differences and presenting a united front

Masterclasses in duck-and-dive

You didn’t need to be a genius or a prophet to predict that Bushiri would run or that Zuma would stall

Bye-bye, Don. But is this the end of Trumpism?

If it hadn’t been for Covid-19, Donald Trump might have won the presidential election. Almost 48% of voting Americans believe in his brand of democracy, equality and justice.

The decline and fall of the South African auditing profession

Its reputation is not being helped at all by the crisis at its independent regulatory body

Will Biden and Harris help us breathe again?

The United States’ newly elected leaders, Joe Biden and Kamala Devi Harris, must help recalibrate a global politics of hope and empathy

The Trump era is over. But the fight for democracy is just getting started

A respected and robust United States — with all of our flaws, mistakes and missteps — can be good for the defence of democracy, not least in Africa
Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

More top stories

‘Where the governments see statistics, I see the faces of...

Yvette Raphael describes herself as a ‘professional protester, sjambok feminist and hater of trash’. Government officials would likely refer to her as ‘a rebel’. She’s fought for equality her entire life, she says. And she’s scared of no one

Covid-19 stems ‘white’ gold rush

The pandemic hit abalone farmers fast and hard. Prices have dropped and backers appear to be losing their appetite for investing in the delicacy

Al-Shabab’s terror in Mozambique

Amid reports of brutal, indiscriminate slaughter, civilians bear the brunt as villages are abandoned and the number of refugees nears half a million

South Africa’s cities opt for clean energy

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions will hinge on the transport sector
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…