Trump sets more realistic tone ahead of second North Korea summit
US president to meet Kim Jong-un in Hanoi amid greatly lowered expectation
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un boards a train in Pyongyang for Hanoi, Vietnam, for a second US-North Korea summit. Handout photograph: KCNA/EPA
Donald Trump and his most senior diplomat moved on Sunday to lower expectations for this week’s summit with North Korea, having previously overstated their progress in blocking its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
The US president and secretary of state Mike Pompeo struck a more realistic tone as Mr Trump and North Korean premier Kim Jong-un prepared to meet for a second time amid no sign of concessions from Pyongyang.
Mr Trump said in a tweet he expected “a continuation of the progress” made at their first summit last year, adding simply: “Denuclearization?” He later said North Korea could become “one of the great economic powers” if it abandoned nuclear weapons.
Mr Trump, Mr Kim and senior officials from both countries are scheduled to meet in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Wednesday and Thursday. North Korean state media said on Sunday Mr Kim left for Vietnam on Saturday aboard a special train, a journey that could take more than two days.
They will resume talks held in Singapore in June last year – the first between the two countries’ heads of state.
The Singapore talks concluded with no substantive agreement on North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons in return for relief from US sanctions. Addressing the points of contention between the countries, Mr Pompeo conceded on Sunday that the US had seen “progress on some, less so on others”.
The secretary of state also said further meetings could be needed.
“There may have to be another summit,” Mr Pompeo told Fox News Sunday. “We may not get everything done this week. We hope we’ll make a substantial step along the way.”
Mr Trump, who previously boasted of a whirlwind diplomatic romance with Kim and made wildly overstated claims of success, has also appeared to accept reality.
“I’m in no rush,” he said at the White House this week.
Mr Pompeo confirmed on Sunday that North Korea continued to pose a nuclear threat to the US
The president’s remarks followed downbeat testimony to Congress by Dan Coats, his director of national intelligence. Mr Coats told senators US spies believed North Korea “will seek to retain its WMD capabilities” because Mr Kim and his aides “ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival”.
Mr Pompeo confirmed on Sunday that North Korea continued to pose a nuclear threat to the US, directly contradicting a claim by Mr Trump following the Singapore summit that it did not.