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Kim, Trump meet, dine in Hanoi

Global Times

By Yang Sheng in Hanoi and Xie Wenting in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/2/27 23:38:40

North Korea won't become anyone's puppet: expert

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump dined in Hanoi on Wednesday and Trump continued to urge Kim to denuclearize his country and so seize the chance for economic development just like Vietnam.

Before a one-on-one meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi and the dinner, the two leaders exchanged handshakes and brief words with groups of reporters.

Trump told reporters at the meeting, "We look forward to it, we both do." Asked whether he might formally declare an end to the Korean War, he responded "We'll see."

Trump earlier made the case that North Korea could thrive economically like Vietnam if the North ends its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Trump said "We'll see what happens, but he [Kim] wants to do something great."

Trump met General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee and State President Nguyen Phu Trong and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Wednesday before he met Kim at the luxury hotel with a rich history in the heart of Vietnam's capital city.

There was no information released about any formal meeting by Kim with any Vietnamese leader at press time. The only reported activity for Kim involving Vietnam was a visit to the North Korean Embassy in Hanoi on Tuesday.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that "Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize. The potential is awesome, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong-un."

Vietnam is a country that has been mentioned frequently when US senior officials talk about North Korea, and so some observers have opined that following China and South Korea, Vietnam has the potential to become a new mediator between North Korea and the US.

However, Chinese experts suggested that Vietnam's influence should not be overestimated simply because it was picked as a venue for a meeting.

"Although to some extent Vietnam plays a role as a mediator between the US and North Korea, its role will fade after the summit as Vietnam has no interest in getting involved too deep in the Korean Peninsula issue," Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China's School of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"Vietnam is much more interested in using this summit to promote its country and boost its ties with the US and North Korea," he said.

Vietnam can become a partner with North Korea to share its experience and lessons of opening-up and attracting foreign investment, but it can't enhance cooperation with North Korea immediately as the relevant UN sanctions have not yet been removed, Cheng said.

The reason why the US wants North Korea to become "another Vietnam" is based on its own Asia-Pacific strategy, and they even think they can include North Korea in their strategy some day, said Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.

Economic powerhouse

Later the same day, Trump said in another tweet that Kim "and I will try very hard to work something out on denuclearization and then make North Korea an economic powerhouse. I believe that China, Russia, Japan and South Korea will be very helpful!"

If the two leaders achieve breakthroughs, such as removing sanctions or concrete plans for denuclearization, then North Korea would have a much safer external environment and of course the whole region would welcome it as an opportunity for investment, Lü said.

Kim Joon-hyung, a professor at the Handong University in South Korea, said it would be "a big change" if North Korea started opening up, meaning, for instance, Japan would have to make big adjustments to its foreign policy.

"Right now Japanese policy, or Abe's policy, is trying to upgrade its military and trying to encircle China" by using North Korea "as an excuse," Kim Joon-hyung said.

If North Korea and the US improve their relationship, then Japan would lose that excuse and would try to start up some form of cooperation.

North Korea has economic potential, but it won't become anyone's puppet, Lü said.

"North Korea has always been an independent sovereign country and always will be."



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