Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un strike upbeat note ahead of nuclear talks

US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un have opened their second summit with smiles, hopeful talk and a friendly dinner that will set the stage for the much more difficult talks to come about curbing North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Facing widespread scepticism about whether they can solve a problem that has flummoxed generations of diplomats and officials, the two men exchanged a warm handshake before a phalanx of alternating American and North Korean flags before disappearing for a private, 30-minute pre-dinner chat.

“A lot of things are going to be solved I hope,” Mr Trump said as dinner began.

“I think it will lead to a wonderful, really a wonderful situation long-term.”

Mr Kim, for his part, said that his country had long been “misunderstood” and viewed with “distrust”.

“There have been efforts, whether out of hostility or not, to block the path that we intend to take,” he said.

“But we have overcome all these and walked toward each other again and we’ve now reached Hanoi after 261 days” since their first meeting in Singapore.

“We have met again here and I am confident that we can achieve great results that everyone welcomes.”

The two men had traded personal insults until a thaw led to last year’s historic meeting in Singapore with the second encounter in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, intended to flesh out principles laid down at that first summit.

Asked if this summit would yield a political declaration to end the Korean War, Mr Trump told reporters: “We’ll see.”

The two leaders were joined for dinner by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim Yong Chol, a former military spy chief and Mr Kim’s point man in negotiations, and North Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong Ho.

Interpreters for each side also attended.

As Mr Trump reached for a summit victory abroad, back in Washington his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was prepared to deliver explosive evidence on Capitol Hill that the president is a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat”.

Unable to ignore the drama playing out thousands of miles away, Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Cohen, who has been sentenced to three years in prison for lying to Congress, “did bad things unrelated to Trump” and “is lying in order to reduce his prison time”.

Anticipation for what could be accomplished at the summit ran high in Hanoi, and there were cheers and gasps as Mr Trump’s motorcade barrelled through the bustling city, with crowds three or four deep lining the streets and jockeying to capture his procession with their mobile phones.

But the carnival-like atmosphere in the Vietnamese capital, with street artists painting likenesses of the leaders and vendors hawking T-shirts showing Mr Kim waving and Mr Trump giving a thumbs-up.

It was a contrast to the serious items on their agenda: North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Mr Trump has been trying to convince Mr Kim that his nation could thrive economically like the host country, Vietnam, if he would end his nuclear weapons programme.

“I think that your country has tremendous economic potential — unbelievable, unlimited,” Mr Trump said.

“I think that you will have a tremendous future with your country, a great leader, and I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen.”

The summit venue, the colonial and neoclassical Sofitel Legend Metropole in the old part of Hanoi, came with its own dose of history.

Mr Trump was trying to talk Mr Kim into giving up his nuclear arsenal at a hotel with a bomb shelter that protected the likes of actress Jane Fonda and singer Joan Baez from American air raids during the Vietnam War.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim first met last June in Singapore, a summit that was long on historic pageantry but short on any enforceable agreements for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal.

North Korea has spent decades, at great economic sacrifice, building its nuclear programme, and there are doubts that it will give away that programme without getting something substantial from the US.

The Korean conflict ended in 1953 with an armistice, essentially a cease-fire signed by North Korea, China and the 17-nation, US-led United Nations Command.

A peace declaration would amount to a political statement, ostensibly teeing up talks for a formal peace treaty that would involve other nations.

Mr Trump tweeted to give an upbeat view of his evening with Mr Kim.

He said: “Great meetings and dinner tonight in Vietnam with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Very good dialogue. Resuming tomorrow!”

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