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Thayer Consultancy Background Briefing:

ABN # 65 648 097 123


Vietnam to Host Second Trump-
Kim Summit
Carlyle A. Thayer
February 5, 2019

Q1. Critics of the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore last year say it did not achieve
much other than a few vague promises and that a second summit meeting will be just
another “show”. In your assessment, will the second summit achieve any concrete
results? What can be expected realistically?
ANSWER: At the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore President Trump went away
with the impression that North Korea would undertake first steps towards
denuclearization without any reciprocal steps by the United States. North Korea
continued to halt nuclear and ballistic missile tests, it blew up the entrance to a test
site and may have halted production of missile parts but little else.
Chairman Kim has received support from China for further dialogue with the United
States with the aim of getting sanctions eased in response to minor moves to slow
North Korea’s nuclear program.
Denuclearization on the Korean peninsula will be a protracted two-way process. North
Korea seeks a formal declaration of the end of Korean War hostilities, diplomatic
recognition by the United States, a guarantee by the United States not to threaten
North Korea, the end of U.S.-South Korean military exercises and the withdrawal of
U.S. military forces from South Korea and withdrawal of weapon systems in Japan that
could strike North Korea.
North Korea is unlikely to provide an inventory of its nuclear and ballistic missile assets
as the U.S. insists.
Trump and Kim are likely to recommit their pledge to denuclearize the Korean
peninsula and announce agreement on some minor steps forward, such as allowing
international inspectors to visit North Korea. North Korea and the U.S. could reach
agreement on stepped up humanitarian assistance to North Korea and support for
North Korea’s efforts to open its economy by reviving special economic zones. In other
words, a slight lifting of UN sanctions. Both sides are likely to commit to future
negotiations.
Q2. Some observers consider Vietnam's selection as the location for the second
summit a very highly symbolic move because it offers something to both sides: For the
United States, the choice of Vietnam fits with its hopes of nudging the unwieldy Kim
regime towards Vietnam’s economic and political model they would like him to
follow. From the North Korean perspective, the appeal is hard to miss - Vietnam is an
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Asian nation that was divided during the Cold War, then reunited after the Communist
North defeated the U.S.-supported South Vietnam. This led to the withdrawal of U.S.
and allied forces and the end to the Vietnam War in 1975. Do you support this view?
ANSWER: Vietnam’s selection as a venue for the Trump-Kim second summit is much
more than symbolic. Vietnam was chosen for practical reasons because all the
stakeholders respect Vietnam’s ability to provide a high-quality secure environment
for the summit. All the stakeholders trust Vietnam to be a neutral host.
In addition, Chairman Kim wants to make an official visit to Vietnam to demonstrate
that North Korea is not isolated. North Korea has studied Vietnam model of doi moi or
renovation in the past. Vietnam’s historical experiences during the Vietnam/American
War, its diplomatic normalization of relations with the United States, negotiations of
a free trade agreement etc. are all of interest to the North Korean regime. North Korea
will seek Vietnam’s support for continuing dialogue with the U.S. and for reciprocity
between the United States and North Korea.
President Trump visited Vietnam in 29017 for the APEC Summit in Da Nang and an
official visit to Hanoi. Vietnam is within his comfort level. The U.S. acknowledges
Vietnam’s long-standing support for non-proliferation and its current support of and
implementation of UN sanctions on North Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has
endorsed Vietnam’s reform and opening up as a model for North Korea to study.
Q3. How do you think China will react to this summit, do you think it will try to
influence Kim prior to the event? How so?
ANSWER: President Xi Jin-ping has already hosted a recent visit by Chairman Kim, so
China has already brought its diplomatic influence to bear. It is no secret that China
supports high-level dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. China also supports
reciprocity in the denucleartization process between North Korea and the United
States and the easing of UN sanctions. China will support the summit because it highly
values stability and a reduction of tensions on the Korean peninsula. China does not
want to be pushed aside from this process.
President Trump has been upbeat about a meeting with President Xi prior to his 1st
March deadline for a trade agreement. Where would they meet? There are reports of
a possible Trump-Xi summit to be held in Da Nang in late February. This might explain
why Trump would make the long trip to Vietnam.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam to Host Second Trump-Kim Summit,”


Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, February 5, 2019. All background briefs are
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Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and
other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially
registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.
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