© 2023 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trump To Meet With North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un In Vietnam


Sticking with the State of the Union, President Trump used it to announce a date and a place for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. They will meet February 27 and 28 in Vietnam. As NPR's Ayesha Rascoe reports, the stakes are high.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: President Trump took a bit of a victory lap on North Korea during his address to Congress.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now in my opinion be in a major war with North Korea.

RASCOE: While that's debatable, there's no question that tensions have eased. Before the president's first meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last June, the two were exchanging insults and threats of annihilation. Now they're exchanging complimentary letters. And Trump says he's hopeful that North Korea will live up to his demand of complete denuclearization. Here he is at a rally in November.


TRUMP: Look at the mess I inherited in North Korea, and look at how well we're doing now.


RASCOE: Despite the hype, progress toward that goal has been slow. North Korea is reportedly still developing its ballistic missile program, and then you have the assessment from Trump's director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, just last week.


DAN COATS: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities. It is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.

RASCOE: With that in mind, experts say this next summit needs to make real progress on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program.

MIEKE EOYANG: It doesn't matter if they're smiling and shaking hands. The missiles still remain pointed at the United States, and the warheads are still out there.

RASCOE: That's Mieke Eoyang of Third Way, a center-left think tank.

EOYANG: He needs to come back with some very specific steps that the North Koreans are willing to take and willing to have verified in order to say that this deal is a success.

RASCOE: Steps like beginning to provide an inventory of their weapons programs or actually allowing inspectors in as they've promised. But North Korea has resisted doing both of those things. One big concern is that Kim might offer up dismantlement of certain facilities that are no longer essential to the regime while maintaining other covert operations. That would obviously not be a good deal for the U.S., says Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

VICTOR CHA: I think a bad deal would be where North Korea essentially offers things that they don't need in return for things that are valuable for the United States, like cessation of military exercises or lifting of sanctions or even troop drawdowns on the Korean Peninsula.

RASCOE: Whatever is agreed to at this second summit, even Trump has acknowledged that denuclearization will take time.


TRUMP: A lot of good things are happening. And I never said speed. Look; it's been this way for 80-plus years.

RASCOE: So when Trump heads to Vietnam to meet with Kim, it will be another round in what could be a very long process. Ayesha Rascoe, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.