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Trump-Kim Summit

Trump and Kim to sign joint agreement at Hanoi summit

Denuclearization outcome unclear, but American leader hints at end-of-war declaration

A handshake and warm words between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mark the start of their second meeting in Hanoi on Wednesday.   © Reuters

HANOI -- U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended the first day of a two-day summit on Wednesday in Vietnam's capital where both expressed optimism about achieving peace and moving toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump and Kim are scheduled to sign a joint agreement on Thursday, the White House said. The American president will hold a news conference later that afternoon.

Despite the optimism voiced by the leaders, many experts are still skeptical that the summit would yield significant progress toward "complete denuclearization," which was what Trump and Kim promised to deliver at their Singapore summit last June. That was the first time that the leaders from both countries had met.

Trump still appeared eager to push the nuclear talks forward. Asked whether the president had walked back his vow to denuclearize the peninsula, Trump gave a simple one-word answer: "No."

Soon after Trump and Kim arrived at the historic Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel in the city center earlier Wednesday, they shook hands in front of their countries' flags. The president then told Kim that he hoped things would "be resolved," adding that "our relationship is a very special relationship."

Kim said of the last 261 days since their meeting in Singapore that "we have overcome all the distrust, misunderstanding and old habits of hostility."

He added: "That period tested our concerns [for our countries], the effort we have put in and our patience, more than at any other time. Now, we are meeting here today, I am sure that we will achieve great results and I will do my best to make that happen."

Some experts said Trump would be keen to be seen as having achieved a level of success from this summit and might offer to officially declare the end of the Korean War in exchange for Kim to promise to destroy the Yongbyon nuclear complex and continue to refrain from nuclear and missile tests.

When a reporter asked if he would declare the end of the Korean War, the president did not rule out such a possibility and said instead: "We'll see."

Trump also put a positive spin on the outlook of the isolated country. "I think your country has tremendous economic potential -- unbelievable, unlimited," Trump told Kim. "I think you will have a tremendous future...I look forward to watching it happen and to helping it happen."

Trump and Kim held a one-on-one meeting for about 20 minutes. The talk was followed by a dinner that lasted an hour and a half. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney as well as North Korean Party Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol and Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho joined them at dinner.

Before Singapore, the two leaders traded barbs over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, with Trump ridiculing Kim as a "little rocket man," and Kim dismissing Trump as a "dotard" and a "frightened dog."

Trump now says he has developed "a very, very good friendship" and that the two men "fell in love."

Before this Hanoi summit, Trump tweeted: "Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize."

"The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon -- Very Interesting!"

Yet, progress on disarmament talks has stalled since last June as both sides struggled to even agree on a definition of denuclearization, according to senior U.S. government officials who spoke to media last week.

Experts now say that if Trump does declare the end of the Korean War, it would simply delay the denuclearization of North Korea while Pyongyang's nuclear weaponry continues to be a threat to neighboring countries.

The summit has been greeted by a mix of hopes and skepticism in the region. South Korean leader Moon Jae-in has been a keen supporter of Trump's personal diplomacy with Kim, while Tokyo is worried that Trump might opt for a quick deal that could sacrifice the interests of Washington's regional partners.

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