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Kim arrives ahead of Hanoi summit

US, NK leaders to hold private dinner Wednesday, meeting on Thursday

HANOI, Vietnam -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday, ahead of official summit events set to kick off the following day.

Kim arrived at the Melia Hanoi Hotel at about 11 a.m. (Vietnam time), while US President Donald Trump was expected to arrive later in the day. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves at Dong Dang Railway Station in Vietnam on Tuesday. Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves at Dong Dang Railway Station in Vietnam on Tuesday. Yonhap

The two leaders are set to begin their two-day summit with a private meeting and dinner Wednesday. According to the White House, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and an interpreter will attend the dinner. Kim is expected to be accompanied by aides matching the US officials.

Heading to Hanoi, Trump again took to Twitter to express high hopes for the meeting, saying that North Korea has the potential to “rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse,” on the condition of complete denuclearization.

Trump added, “Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!” He later tweeted that he was looking forward to a “very productive summit” and told US governors that he expected a “very tremendous” meeting.

While Trump remains characteristically dramatic, working-level officials on the ground continued laying the foundations for the summit.

Pompeo, who arrived in Hanoi ahead of Trump, was expected to meet with Stephen Biegun, US special representative for North Korea. There were also speculations that the top US diplomat could meet with Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, to fine tune the outline of the summit.

Along with Kim Yong-chol, the North Korean leader is accompanied by some of his top aides, including his sister, Kim Yo-jong, Party Vice Chairman O Su-yong, and the North’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho. The inclusion of O Su-yong, who doubles as the director of the North Korean ruling party’s economic affairs department, has been interpreted as an indication of the emphasis Pyongyang is placing on the economic outcome of the summit.

The South Korean government, meanwhile, expressed high hopes for the second US-North Korea summit.

“The international order surrounding the Korean Peninsula is changing. The most important element is that we have become able to lead such changes,” President Moon Jae-in said at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.

“The international community highly rates our role in the changes in the Korean Peninsula situation.”

On Monday, Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters that he believes the US and North Korea could agree on declaring the end of the Korean War, saying that such a declaration would be welcome regardless of the form it takes, and that a two-way declaration involving only the US and North Korea has significance.

The spokesman, however, drew the line at a peace treaty, saying that while declaring the end of the war is a political issue, negotiating a peace treaty would require multiparty talks.

By Choi He-suk (