WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would hold his second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on Feb. 27-28, while giving himself credit for averting a major war on the Korean Peninsula.
In his annual State of the Union address to Congress, Trump said much work remained to be done in the push for peace with North Korea, but cited the halt in its nuclear testing and no new missile launches in 15 months as proof of progress.
“If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea,” Trump said in his address.
Trump had raised fears of war in 2017 when he threatened to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea because of the threat its nuclear weapons and missiles posed to the United States.
Trump met Kim on June 12 in Singapore in the first summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Trump has been eager to hold a second summit in spite of a lack of concrete progress in persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
His relationship with Kim, he said on Tuesday, “is a good one.”
Communist-ruled Vietnam, which has good relations with both the United States and North Korea, had been widely touted as the most likely venue for the meeting.
It has been touted as a model of economic and political reform for impoverished and isolated North Korea to follow, but would require major changes to the North’s personality cult and “juche” ideology of self sufficiency.
Trump did not say which Vietnamese city would host the two leaders, but both the capital, Hanoi, and Danang have been considered possibilities.
A source at Danang airport said four U.S. military V-22 “Osprey” aircraft flew from Japan’s Okinawa island and landed in Danang on Tuesday evening. They left Danang again after a few hours, the source said.
Last week, U.S. logistics officials visited the city, a major base for U.S. and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam said it did not have anything to announce regarding the summit.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun was due to hold talks in Pyongyang this week to map out what he called “a set of concrete deliverables” for the second meeting.
The Singapore summit yielded a vague commitment from Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, where U.S. troops have been stationed since the 1950-1953 Korean War.
In the U.S. view, North Korea has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons. It has complained that the United States has done little to reciprocate its freezing of nuclear and missile testing and dismantling of some nuclear facilities.
North Korea has repeatedly urged a lifting of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, a formal end to the war, and security guarantees.
The two-day summit could bring an agreement between Trump and Kim to end the Korean War, said Harry Kazianis of the Washington-based Centre for the National Interest, a conservative think-tank.
“Such a declaration would show a clear intent to transform their relationship and create a solid foundation for the much harder work toward denuclearization that is yet to come,” Kazianis tweeted.
While Trump has hailed “tremendous progress” in his dealings with North Korea, a confidential report by U.N. sanctions monitors seen by Reuters this week cast further doubt on the North’s intentions.
It said the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs remained intact and that North Korea was working to make sure those capabilities could not be destroyed by any military strikes.
(This story has been refiled to fix typo in paragraph 8)
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Makini Brice and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON and James Pearson and Kham Nguyen in HANOI; Editing by Mary Milliken, Peter Cooney and Lincoln Feast