HANOI, Vietnam — U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — affable leaders of hostile nations — opened their second summit Wednesday with hopeful words and a private chat before sitting down for dinner and further talks about North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The two exchanged smiles and a warm handshake in front of a phalanx of alternating American and North Korean flags. They posed for cameras before disappearing for their private tete-a-tete, similar to one they had at their first historic meeting last year in Singapore.
“We made a lot of progress,” Trump said of their first summit. “I think the biggest progress was our relationship, is really a good one.”
Asked if this summit would yield a political declaration to end the Korean War, Trump said “We’ll see.”
Kim said he was “confident of achieving the great results that everyone will welcome.”
The venue, the colonial and neoclassical Sofitel Legend Metropole in the old part of Hanoi, came with a bit of irony.
Trump will be trying to convince Kim to give up his nuclear weapons at a hotel that has bomb shelter that protected the likes of actress Jane Fonda and singer Joan Baez from American air raids during the Vietnam War. According to the hotel’s website, the bunker was closed and sealed after the war ended in the mid-1970s. It was rediscovered by chance during a bar renovation project in 2011.
Trump was being joined at dinner by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Kim was being accompanied by Kim Yong Chol, a former military spy chief and Kim’s point man in negotiations, and Ri Yong Ho, the foreign affairs minister. Interpreters for each side also were attending.
Anticipation for what will be accomplished at the summit ran high in Hanoi. But the carnival-like atmosphere in the Vietnamese capital, with street artists painting likenesses of the leaders and vendors hawking T-shirts showing Kim waving and Trump giving a thumbs-up, contrasted with the serious items on their agenda.
Scoring a victory at the summit would offset Trump’s political troubles back in Washington, where Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, was prepared to tell lawmakers that Trump is a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat.” Earlier in the day, after meeting with the president of Vietnam, Trump was unable to ignore the drama playing out thousands of miles away.