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President Trump Meets With North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un In Second Summit

Feb 27, 2019
Originally published on February 28, 2019 11:29 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump is underway. The two met Wednesday in Vietnam. While Trump and Kim were publicly positive about potential outcomes for the talks, it is still not clear whether their countries can close the gap on their differences. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe is traveling with the president and has more.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: If President Trump has any doubts about his negotiations with Kim Jong Un, he didn't let it show when the two met in Vietnam.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think that your country has tremendous economic potential - unbelievable, unlimited. And I think that you will have a tremendous future with your country - a great leader.

RASCOE: And Kim also had compliments, praising Trump for bringing them together. Through his interpreter, he said...

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SUPREME LEADER KIM JONG UN: (Through interpreter) And I truly believe that this successful and great meeting that we are having today is thanks to the courageous decision - political decision...

RASCOE: After that comment, Trump and Kim spoke one-on-one privately for about 30 minutes. The two were later joined by members of their delegations for what the White House called a social dinner. While Wednesday's meetings were filled with happy talk, on Thursday, the leaders will have to get down to business.

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TRUMP: We're going to have a very busy day tomorrow. And we'll probably have a pretty quick dinner. And a lot of things are going to be solved, I hope.

RASCOE: Trump and Kim are expected to sign some sort of joint agreement. The question is, what can the U.S. offer North Korea to convince them to give up their weapons without first easing sanctions? Fred Fleitz, a former chief of staff to national security adviser John Bolton, said providing sanctions relief without full denuclearization has been a red line for the White House. Fleitz says it's possible the U.S. might be willing to open a liaison office in North Korea that could eventually lead to a formal diplomatic relationship.

FRED FLEITZ: It's such a minor concession. But for the North Koreans, it might be important, and it might be a face-saving way to get them to allow inspectors to go into their nuclear test site.

RASCOE: There's also talk of a possible peace declaration between the U.S. and North Korea since the Korean War isn't officially over. In exchange, North Korea may agree to give up its main nuclear weapons center, Yongbyon. Whatever deal is reached, experts say follow-through will be critical, especially after the first summit failed to offer much in the way of concrete results. Trump has resisted that criticism, however.

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TRUMP: I felt it was very successful. And some people would like to see it go quicker. I'm satisfied. You're satisfied. We want to be happy with what we're doing.

RASCOE: But as Trump tries to nail down a deal with North Korea, back home, the congressional testimony of his former lawyer Michael Cohen threatens to overshadow the summit. With Trump scheduled to hold a press conference tomorrow, it's almost certain that North Korea will not be the only topic of discussion. Ayesha Rascoe, NPR News, Hanoi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.