Facing widespread skepticism about whether they can solve a problem that has bedeviled generations of diplomats and officials, the two men exchanged a warm handshake before a phalanx of alternating American and North Korean flags before disappearing for a private, 30-minute pre-dinner chat, AP reported.
“A lot of things are going to be solved I hope,” Trump said as dinner began. “I think it will lead to a wonderful, really a wonderful situation long-term.”
Kim, for his part, said that his country had long been “misunderstood” and viewed with “distrust.”
“There have been efforts, whether out of hostility or not, to block the path that we intend to take,” he said. “But we have overcome all these and walked toward each other again and we’ve now reached Hanoi after 261 days” since their first meeting in Singapore.
“We have met again here and I am confident that we can achieve great results that everyone welcomes.”
For all of the optimistic talk in front of the cameras, there was broad concern that Trump, eager for an agreement, would give Kim too much and get too little in return — perhaps a peace declaration for the Korean War that the North could use to eventually push for the reduction of US troops in South Korea, or sanctions relief that could allow Pyongyang to pursue lucrative economic projects with the South.
A deal like this, skeptics say, would leave in place a significant portion of North Korea’s nuclear-tipped missiles while robbing the United States of its negotiating leverage going forward.
Asked if this summit would yield a political declaration to end the Korean War, Trump told reporters: “We’ll see.”
The two leaders were joined for dinner by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim Yong Chol, a former military spy chief and Kim’s point man in negotiations, and North Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong Ho. Interpreters for each side also attended.
Trump has been trying to convince Kim that his nation could thrive economically like the host country, Vietnam, if he would end his nuclear weapons program.
“I think that your country has tremendous economic potential — unbelievable, unlimited,” Trump said. “I think that you will have a tremendous future with your country — a great leader — and I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen.”
Trump and Kim first met last June in Singapore, a summit that was long on historic pageantry but short on any enforceable agreements for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal. North Korea has spent decades, at great economic sacrifice, building its nuclear program, and there are doubts that it will give away that program without getting something substantial from the US.
North and South Korea want US sanctions dialed back so they can resurrect two major symbols of rapprochement that provided $150 million a year to the impoverished North by some estimates: a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong and South Korean tours to the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort.