North Korea summit: Trump gushes about ‘very, very good relationship’ with Kim Jong-un

As he sets off for Vietnam talks, US president says North Korea has potential to be ‘one of the great economic powers’ with Kim at its helm

Adam Withnall
Asia editor
Monday 25 February 2019 08:28
Comments from Trump and Kim Jong-un at historic summit in Singapore

Donald Trump has admitted he will go into a second summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un later this week with expectations substantially reduced from when they first met in Singapore last year.

The US would be “happy” with the outcome of the talks in Vietnam “as long as there’s no testing”, Mr Trump said, a reference to the continuation of a pause on nuclear and missile tests that has been in place in North Korea since late 2017.

After his first summit with Mr Kim in June last year, the US president tweeted there was “no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea – a claim the secretary of state Mike Pompeo has now admitted was untrue.

And speaking on Sunday night to a gathering of governors at the White House, Mr Trump declared he was no longer in a “rush” for Pyongyang to prove it was abandoning its weapons.

“I’m not in a rush. I don’t want to rush anybody, I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy,” he said.

In statements on Twitter and elsewhere on Sunday evening on the eve of his departure for Vietnam, the US president spoke in gushing terms about how, with the dictatorial Mr Kim at the helm, North Korea had “more potential for rapid growth than any other nation”.

“Chairman Kim realises, perhaps better than anyone else, that without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the world,” Mr Trump wrote, attributing this potential to “its location and people (and him)”.

The two leaders will meet in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday, eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

And according to reporters at Sunday’s black-tie Governors’ Ball, Mr Trump boasted of having “developed a very very good relationship” with Mr Kim. He added: “We’ll see what that means. But he’s never had a relationship with anybody from this country, and hasn’t had lots of relationships anywhere.”

Amid concerns over what Mr Trump might agree to in order to secure a foreign policy victory, Democratic senators and security officials have warned against any deal that does little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

As Mr Kim made his way across China by train for the summit, North Korean state media warned the US presidency not to listen to critics who, it said, were disrupting efforts to improve ties.

A South Korean presidential spokesperson told reporters in Seoul the two sides might agree to declare a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War at the summit.

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The war ended in a truce, not a treaty, and the North has long called for a treaty to end it. It also wants security guarantees.

The US has for years demanded North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation, before any concessions will be granted.

But in recent days Mr Trump has signalled a possible softening of the US position, hinting at support for a limited deal if there is only “meaningful progress” on the denuclearisation issue.

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