President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address to announce he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet again later this month in Vietnam to resume nuclear disarmament talks.
The high-stakes talks will span two days starting Feb. 27, he said.
“Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam,” Trump said during his State of the Union address.
Since the duo met last year in Singapore, the Trump administration has sent mixed messages on a number of related matters. That list includes whether Kim’s government is taking steps to dismantle its atomic arms program, and whether the U.S. government believes it ever would.
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The president has repeatedly said he trusts Kim and believes he is taking those steps. But his hand-picked intelligence leaders recently told a Senate panel they have no evidence to show the North is taking down its program.
The Vietnam summit comes after Trump recently declared that only he and Kim can broker a deal under which the North would disarm, raising the stakes for their second meeting just as he ramps up his re-election push.
Trump also took credit for the tamping down of tensions with North Korea in 2018, after they peaked in 2017 amid an unprecedented spate of nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang and threats of retaliation by 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,” Trump said. “Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one.”
The second Trump-Kim summit has received comparatively less attention than the first groundbreaking one in Singapore last summer. That’s in large part because of dimmed expectations for a nuclear breakthrough.
In the months since the Singapore meeting, North Korea has refused repeated U.S. calls to provide a comprehensive inventory of its nuclear and missile sites while pressing for an early relaxation of sanctions. Meanwhile, satellite photographs indicate North Korea continues to grow its missile arsenal and U.S. officials have testified before Congress that North Korea has not moved toward denuclearization.
Ahead of the State of the Union speech, Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Tuesday told Fox News he welcomed the summit announcement but urged the president not to agree to any new concessions with Kim.
“I would warn not to make concessions before the North Koreans start de-escalating their nuclear program,” the Texas Republican said. “They’ve done that time and time again, and they have played us. They’ll try to get us to remove all of our troops from South Korea before they do anything and I think it should happen the other way around.”
To the surprise of many, including top officials in the Pentagon, Trump announced in Singapore he was ordering a halt to major U.S-South Korea military exercises. And the language of the U.S.-North Korea joint statement that came out of the summit has come under criticism for being overly broad and weaker on the point of North Korean’s denuclearization than previous joint statements struck during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.