U.S. President Donald Trump said he will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for two days from Feb. 27 in Vietnam to inject fresh momentum into their countries’ stalled nuclear negotiations.
“Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam,” Trump said during his State of the Union address Tuesday (local time).
“Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong-un is a good one.”
Trump, however, did not mention which city will host the summit. The likely venues for the meeting include Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the coastal city of Danang.
The two leaders held their first historic meeting last June in Singapore, reaching a broad agreement outlining bilateral pledges for sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula.
But as the agreement was mostly symbolic without specific clauses regarding complete denuclearization of the North, calls had grown for Trump and Kim to hold a second summit as soon as possible to discuss detailed and practical measures to speed up the North’s nuclear disarmament.
While the Singapore summit built a mood for rapprochement between the two, subsequent negotiations fell short of expectations, with neither side showing signs of making concessions on a timeline and method for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Pyongyang urged Washington to take reciprocal measures in exchange for the regime’s steps toward nuclear disarmament. The North has in recent months complained that the U.S. is not taking any trust-building steps despite the former’s repeated pledges and practical steps for denuclearization, including the dismantlement of the Punggye-ri test facility.
Pre-summit agenda under discussion
On Wednesday, Steve Biegun, the U.S. nuclear envoy for North Korea, departed for Pyongyang to hold pre-summit working-level talks with his North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok-chol.
Biegun left Seoul at around 6:50 a.m. for Osan Air Base in Gyeonggi Province before taking a flight to Pyongyang via the West Sea.
Neither the two Koreas nor the U.S. unveiled a specific schedule for his Pyongyang visit. But Biegun and Kim Hyok-chol, a former North Korean ambassador to Spain, are expected to fine-tune the agenda for the upcoming summit.
Expectations are that Biegun will stay there for at least two days, as the second Washington-Pyongyang summit is imminent and time is ripe for them to finalize details for the planned meeting between Trump and Kim.
Biegun stayed in Seoul for three days from and discussed the North’s complete denuclearization with National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong and Lee Do-hoon, the special representative for peace and security affairs on the Korean Peninsula.
It remains unknown whether the U.S. nuclear envoy will meet with Kim.
Last week, Biegun quoted Kim as saying he was committed to complete dismantlement of plutonium and uranium facilities in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang last October.
As the North has reiterated the need for the U.S. to take corresponding steps to speed up denuclearization of the regime, attention is growing over what Washington will use as a bargaining chip during the second summit.
During the latest inter-Korean summit in September, Kim pledged to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facility with verification by outside experts if the U.S. took reciprocal measures.