Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will meet one-on-one at the start of their second summit in Vietnam – a detail that could raise concerns following the president’s solo meeting with Vladimir Putin when he asked for the interpreter’s notes.
That initial meeting next week in Hanoi will be followed by a meal and expanded talks with each country’s delegation, a US official has revealed.
“President Trump is looking to, after really in some respects breaking the ice in June, to talk in more depth about the kind of future North Korea could enjoy if it follows through on its commitment to final and full denuclearisation,” the official, insisting on anonymity, told reporters in a briefing call on Thursday.
The official said this was an important step toward that ultimate goal of denuclearisation.
Mr Trump was criticised by some for failing to secure any solid committment from North Korea after their first, historic meeting last June in Singapore.
“In addition president Trump is looking to, after really breaking the ice with Kim in June, to talk in more depth about the kind of future that north korea could enjoy if it follows trough on its commitment to the final and full denuclearisation.”
Mr Trump announced details of his second meeting with Mr Kim doing his state of the union address last month, suggesting his personal engagement with the North Korean leader – the first by a sitting US president – had already reaped dividends.
“As part of a bold new diplomacy, 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 15 months,” he said.
“If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea. Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong-Un is a good one.
The fact Mr Trump will initially meet the North Korean alone could trigger concerns among some. Earlier this year it was reported he had gone to “extraordinary lengths” to keep details of a 2017 conversation with Mr Putin secret from officials in own administration.
The Washington Post said after a meeting with the Russian leader at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, the US president took his interpreter’s notes and told him not to discuss the meeting with anyone.
After his meeting with Mr Kim last summer, the president was criticised by some for obtaining very little in exchange for a meeting that helped project his image on the international stage. The two men issued a joint statement that reaffirmed the North’s commitment to “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” and gave US guarantees of security to North Korea.
Yet Democrats, and others, said the agreement was light on detail. “One trip and it’s ‘mission accomplished’, Mr President? North Korea still has all its nuclear missiles, and we only got a vague promise of future denuclearisation from a regime that can’t be trusted,” congressman Adam Schiff, said at the time.
Observers hope the second summit will be more productive and that work behind the scenes may have already nailed down some details that would suggest concrete progress.
“Possible scenarios of progress include an agreement to ease some sanctions in exchange for North Korea forfeiting certain ballistic missiles or freezing nuclear production,” said Kevin Martin, president of Peace Action, a Washington DC-based non-profit organisation.
“Another potential path forward is a declaration announcing the end of the Korean War, which President Moon of South Korea has urged the US to support. That would be an elegant step towards a formal peace agreement and towards meeting North Korea’s desire for security guarantees that could change its calculus on the value of its nuclear arsenal.”