On Wednesday evening in Hanoi, Vietnam, U.S. President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for the start of their second summit, which will conclude on Thursday.
The encounter between the two leaders began with a handshake before U.S. and North Korean flags, evoking the start of their first summit in June 2018 in Singapore.
The meeting marks the second-ever summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. The two sides are set to make diplomatic progress on the agreement they jointly agreed to at Singapore.
The Singapore agreement featured four primary outcomes, pledging the U.S. and North Korea to work toward normalized relations and a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea also pledged to work toward denuclearization and to return the remains of American prisoners-of-war/missing-in-action personnel from the Korean War.
After shaking hands with Kim, Trump emphasized North Korea’s economic potential — a message that the U.S. president has repeatedly referenced in the lead-up to this summit with the North Korean leader.
Last year, in April, Kim Jong Un announced a “new strategic line” for North Korea that emphasized economic development after the completion of its nuclear deterrent in 2017.
Following their meeting and a short encounter with press, Trump and Kim entered a private dinner, joined by two aides each and translators.
The bulk of the summit discussions between the two countries are slated to take place on Thursday in Vietnam. The two leaders and their staff will work toward an agreement that may include a declaration to end the Korean War.
When asked about the possibility of such a declaration by reporters on Wednesday, Trump simply said “we’ll see.” On denuclearization, the core U.S. concern over years of lower-level diplomacy with North Korea, the U.S. president has also lowered expectations in the lead-up to the summit.
In the week prior to the ongoing meetings in Vietnam, Trump said that he was in “no rush” for North Korea’s denuclearization and the core concession he valued from Pyongyang was the ongoing freeze on ballistic missile and nuclear testing.
North Korea’s last nuclear test took place in September 2017 and its last ballistic missile test in November that same year. In April last year, Kim Jong Un announced that North Korea would not conduct tests of intercontinental-range ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons because the development of these systems was complete.
For North Korea, the summit will be an opportunity to explore the United States’ willingness to compromise on its core demands, which include sanctions relief and exemptions for inter-Korean projects.
A separate and related inter-Korean diplomatic process began between the two Koreas last February at the start of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. South Korean President Moon Jae-in met Kim for three summits in 2018 and Kim Jong Un is expected to visit Seoul for a fourth summit later this year.