President Donald Trump says his second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next week will be “very exciting,” but says he has “no pressing timetable” on Pyongyang giving up its nuclear weapons as long as there isn’t any testing. (Feb. 19) AP
WASHINGTON – The “Dotard” and the “Rocket Man” are ready for their second pas de deux.
The world will be watching when President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sit down next week for their second summit in less than a year.
The meeting, which will take place Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam, follows their first round of face-to-face talks last summer in Singapore and will give the two leaders a chance to flesh out some of the details of a history-making denuclearization agreement that emerged from their initial dialogue.
Here’s a look back at what happened during the first summit and what we can expect during the second:
A historic meeting
Trump and Kim had a troubled history – one filled with taunts, threats and colorful name-calling – before their historic meeting last June.
Trump mocked Kim as “Rocket Man,” called him “a maniac” with nuclear weapons and warned that he if didn’t stop threatening the United States he’d be met “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Kim bragged that he has a nuclear button on his desk, dismissed Trump as “a rogue and a gangster” and – in one of their more imaginative insults – blasted the U.S. president as a mentally deranged “dotard.” (A dotard, for the record, is an old person, especially one who is weak or senile.)
Given their war of words, the world was stunned when Kim announced last March that he had invited Trump to meet and discuss North Korea’s nuclear program and that Trump had accepted the invitation. The meeting would be the first ever between the nations’ two leaders after more than a half-century of tensions between their countries.
The setting chosen for the summit was a luxury resort hotel in Singapore.
Pageantry and surreal moments
After weeks of preparations, the two adversaries finally came face to face on June 12 in a day filled with pomp and ceremony.
Trump arrived first; Kim showed up 17 minutes later. In front of a backdrop of American and North Korean flags, the two leaders stood on a red carpet and shook hands, which itself was a history-making gesture and one that critics said gave too much prestige to Kim, a dictator who imprisons and murders his opponents.
Then they got down to business. The four-hour summit included a private one-on-one meeting between Trump and Kim and their translators, which was followed by a bilateral meeting between delegations of the two countries.
Amid the serious discussions, there were lots of surreal moments. Trump and Kim participated in frequent photo ops that showed them getting along. They took a lunchtime stroll on the hotel grounds. Trump gave Kim a peek inside of his presidential limousine known as “The Beast.”
Despite their past animosities, Trump and Kim had nothing but nice things to say about each other. Trump said he and Kim had developed “a very special bond.” Kim said he and Trump had decided “to leave the past behind.”
And then the the two leaders who had spent months threatening to annihilate each other signed an agreement pledging to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
“We’re ready to write a new chapter,” a triumphant Trump said at a news conference.
The accord signed by Trump and Kim may have promised denuclearization, but the document itself was vague about when and how that might happen. It included no deadlines, no timetables and no process to verify that North Korea was living up to the terms.
Foreign policy analysts said the deal was so vague that it was meaningless. But Trump and his team insisted they didn’t expect the summit to produce a comprehensive nuclear deal. Instead, they said, they were looking to set up a process to negotiate an agreement in which North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for economic assistance from the United States and other countries.
In the months since that agreement was signed, however, talks between the two countries have stalled as they struggled over the details of how to go forward with North Korea’s disarmament and the removal of U.S.-led sanctions.
The North Koreans haven’t provided the U.S. with an inventory of their nuclear weapons and facilities, which many analysts say is the key first step toward denuclearization. The U.S. has refused to lift economic sanctions against North Korea, saying Kim must first start relinquishing his nuclear arsenal.
North Korea has suspended nuclear and missile tests and dismantled its nuclear testing site and parts of its rocket engine test facility. But members of the Trump administration say North Korea is still developing a nuclear weapons program, raising doubts about whether Kim is really committed to denuclearization. Satellite footage indicates that North Korea is still running its main nuclear complex.
Two things that have happened as a result of the agreement: The United States has suspended some joint military exercises with South Korea amid the ongoing negotiations. And North Korea has returned what it said was the remains of 55 American troops who served in the Korean War.
The Vietnam summit
So what can we expect to happen at Trump’s and Kim’s second summit in Hanoi next week?
Look for the Trump administration to demand that North Korea verify what it has done so far to eliminate its nuclear weapons and provide a list of nuclear sites that it intends to dismantle.
The administration also is likely to press North Korea for a specific time frame for doing away with those weapons.
North Korea will probably use the second summit to try to win more concessions from the U.S. and demand the lifting of sanctions that have hurt its economy.
Kim also is expected to seek a peace declaration formally ending the Korean War. Though the fighting stopped with a ceasefire in 1953, the countries technically are still at war.