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After 4,000km trip that included a smoke break in China, Kim Jong Un arrives in Vietnam by train

Donald Trump took a more traditional route, travelling on Air Force One.

Kim Jong Un waves upon arrival by train in Dong Dang.
Kim Jong Un waves upon arrival by train in Dong Dang.
Image: MINH HOANG

NORTH KOREAN LEADER Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump have both arrived in Hanoi ahead of their second summit, but the exact location of their meeting is not yet known.

The summit is shrouded in secrecy and even as Trump touched down this afternoon there was no official word even on the venue. 

The two leaders are expected to have an informal dinner on tomorrow before more formal talks on Thursday. 

The arrival of both leaders created a great stir, with Kim embarking on a two-and-a-half day, 4,000 kilometre odyssey through China by train.

Trump’s travel was more conventional, flying on Air Force One in a journey that included a refuelling stop at an RAF base in the UK.

In Hanoi, there was some confusion when it was realised that the hotel Kim was to stay in had been double-booked, with the White House press corps also set to be staying in the city’s Melia Hotel. 

When security started to tighten at the hotel yesterday, reporters were in disbelief that the western press corps was going to be amassed at the same place as the reclusive North Korean leader.

It was unclear who booked first but Vietnam’s Foreign Minister said today the journalists were to be relocated to an international media a seven-minute walk away.

Second meeting

This second summit will be watched closely for concrete steps that Pyongyang is to dismantle its nuclear programme.

After an initial historic meeting in Singapore in June that produced only a vague statement about denuclearisation, analysts say the second date must deliver more in the way of tangible progress.

Trump made no comment to reporters on his aircraft but had previously tweeted his hopes for a “very productive” meeting, reiterating that North Korea could enjoy economic riches if it gave up its nuclear weapons.

PastedImage-50828 Source: Twitter

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 political theatre that failed to produce a concrete roadmap to denuclearisation and stressed 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.

Even so, Trump appeared to lower US demands for Pyongyang in the run-up to the summit, 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,” Trump said at the weekend.

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

‘Most memorable’ moment

Source: euronews (in English)/YouTube

Kim’s epic journey to Vietnam ended at the normally sleepy border station of Dong Dang, where he was met by a military guard of honour in pristine white uniforms. They presented arms as he strolled down the red carpet waving and grinning, surrounded by a phalanx of aides and security personnel.

Student Nguyen Thu Uyen who handed Kim flowers on his arrival said meeting the leader was her “most memorable” moment.

“Kim Jong Un is very friendly and especially attractive,” she said, after Kim became the first North Korean leader to visit fellow one-party state Vietnam since his grandfather Kim Il Sung in 1964.

Kim was greeted in Hanoi by cheering crowds and after a few hours’ rest at his hotel, made a 50-minute jaunt to the North Korean embassy — echoing the summit in Singapore, where he took in the sights on an unscheduled sortie.

No shared agreement

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.

VIETNAM-HANOI-SUMMIT-TRUMP-ARRIVAL Donald Trump arriving in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

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 South Korea, and sometimes in the wider region.

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.

© – AFP 2019 with reporting by Associated Press and Rónán Duffy

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