US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam on February 27 and 28 to jump-start a diplomatic effort to dismantle the reclusive nation's nuclear and missile programmes. The announcement about the meeting came during Trump's second State of the Union address. Kim and Trump met in Singapore last year, marking the first bilateral meeting between leaders of the two countries. While North Korea since then has refrained from overtly provocative actions like testing nuclear warheads or ballistic missiles, it has yet to agree to actually give up any piece of its atomic arsenal.
Addressing Congress, Trump said progress has been made in his administration's efforts to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula. "We continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped and there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months," Trump said during the address that lasted for more than 80 minutes. Trump, however, also gave an ominous warning about the risks of heightened tensions with Pyongyang. It is not clear in which city the summit will take place. Hanoi, the nation's capital, and Da Nang, a coastal resort town, have both been floated as possibilities.
A source familiar with the negotiations told CNN that North Korea favours Hanoi given that they have an embassy there. The US favours Da Nang given the fact that there was recently an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the city which means the US has already conducted a full check. Vietnam, which has diplomatic ties with both Washington and Pyongyang, offers advantages for both leaders. Da Nang is an easy flight for Kim's shorter-range aircraft and, for Trump, the country offers a symbolic nod to a communist country that has improved relations with the US since the end of the Vietnam War. The lead US negotiator with North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is set to meet with his North Korean counterpart on Wednesday in Pyongyang.
With the summit between Trump and Kim just three weeks away, follow-up meetings at a working level will be needed, especially as there was no progress on denuclearisation during the last visit by a North Korean delegation to Washington in January. The North Koreans have said that they would take steps on denuclearisation if the US takes corresponding measures, though Biegun said last week that one of his tasks will be to figure out exactly what that means. Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded agreement at their first summit in Singapore pledging to work toward full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Members of Trump's administration, meanwhile, acknowledge North Korea is still developing a nuclear weapons programme and US sanctions on the country remain in place.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers last week that "North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities, and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities." Coats said that the US intelligence has observed "some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearisation." The last nuclear test North Korea conducted was in September 2017. The regime also launched an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017. Some experts say the regime no longer needs to conduct such tests because of advances in its nuclear weapons programme. Pointing to an end of nuclear missile tests, Trump has placed North Korea at the top of his foreign policy achievements. Trump and Kim have exchanged letters, and the president has repeatedly said he has a "very good relationship" with the reclusive leader.