• President Trump shook hands with Kim Jong-un on Wednesday night in Hanoi, Vietnam, beginning their second summit meeting in eight months. The two leaders then sat down to a formal dinner with top aides.
• Amid meetings with Vietnamese officials on Wednesday, American politics were clearly on the president’s mind. He attacked his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and a Democratic senator on Twitter just hours before he met Mr. Kim.
• Formal talks between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim are to take place on Thursday. The United States wants North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. The North Koreans are seeking numerous concessions, including an end to punishing sanctions.
• It is a critical moment for Mr. Trump, who vowed to “solve” the North Korea problem before his inauguration, and for Mr. Kim, who needs to make good on promises to nurture the North Korean economy.
Trump and Kim shake hands
President Trump shook hands with Kim Jong-un on Wednesday night, greeting the North Korean leader in a one-on-one exchange before a formal dinner that included top aides to both leaders.
“I think your country has tremendous economic potential,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Kim after the two exchanged greetings against a backdrop of North Korean and American flags and in front of a roomful of reporters. “I think 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 leaders whispered to each other at the outset, but Mr. Kim did not address the journalists.
One of our reporters, Motoko Rich, tweeted that she saw “Quite a grin from Kim Jong-un when the press corps bombards them with questions.”
At dinner, Mr. Kim praised Mr. Trump for a “courageous decision” to start a dialogue.
The two leaders have claimed a personal chemistry that belies the daunting challenge they will face on Thursday, when Mr. Trump will try to get Mr. Kim to commit to specific steps toward denuclearization. — Edward Wong
The core challenge: stopping nuclear fuel production
President Trump’s success or failure in moving toward his stated goal of denuclearizing North Korea may hinge on the fate of a remote, heavily contaminated nuclear site that has been under watch by American intelligence since the early 1980s.
It is called Yongbyon, and it is the centerpiece of North Korean nuclear fuel-making. Declassified C.I.A. documents show that for more than 35 years the United States has been watching for signs that the site’s reactors are operating, as well as tracing what happens to the plutonium — and more recently uranium — that can be turned into bomb fuel there.
If Mr. Trump can get the production of nuclear fuel at Yongbyon stopped, he will have at least “frozen” the North’s program, though it may already have 30 nuclear weapons. That means dismantling the old reactor, neutralizing a new one, and taking apart a uranium enrichment facility that the North showed nine years ago to Siegfried Hecker, the former head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (American intelligence officials believe there is at least one other such facility, outside the high walls surrounding Yongbyon.)
Mr. Trump has been told that if he can get the facilities destroyed, he will have made progress no other American president has. If he cannot, the North Koreans will keep producing fuel — and maybe bombs — while talks drag on. — David E. Sanger
Redefining success in the summit
Mr. Trump once vowed to “solve” the problem of North Korea, making clear that he meant eliminating its nuclear arsenal. But he now sounds prepared to accept much less.
As David Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun write, Mr. Trump has moved away from using denuclearization as a measure of success, instead citing the dialogue itself and his relationship with Mr. Kim as measures of progress.
Billions worth of deals before talks
Mr. Trump’s day began by meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam and President Nguyen Phu Trong, who is also the general secretary of the country’s ruling Communist Party.
Mr. Trump later attended a signing ceremony for commercial business deals, including the sale of 100 Boeing 737 Max jets to VietJet Air, a private Vietnamese airline, for nearly $13 billion at list prices, and 10 Boeing 787 Dreamliners to Bamboo Airways, another private airline in Vietnam, for $3 billion.
In a meeting with Vietnam’s leaders, Mr. Trump described Vietnam’s development as a path for Kim Jong-un to follow that would “make North Korea into a great economic power.”
— Mike Ives and Austin Ramzy
“A merciless guy” — a North Korean defector speaks out about Kim
Kim Jong-un is “intelligent and bright, but a merciless guy,” according to the highest-level diplomat to defect from North Korea in years. The defector, Thae Yong-ho, says that Mr. Kim is meeting with Mr. Trump to buy time and get sanctions relief.
In an interview with Jane Perlez, The New York Times bureau chief in Beijing, Mr. Thae said that if Mr. Trump does not agree to ease sanctions against North Korea, Mr. Kim “could do anything,” including selling nuclear technology to other states, such as Iran.
Trump attacks Michael Cohen ahead of testimony
American politics did not appear to be far from Mr. Trump’s mind while in Hanoi. After meeting with Vietnamese leaders, the president attacked his former lawyer and a Democratic senator on twitter.
A day before Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, was set to testify before Congress, the president accused his former fixer of lying.
“He is lying in order to reduce his prison time,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Cohen, who last year pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, financial crimes and violating campaign finance laws.
In a separate tweet, the president mocked Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who made misleading statements about his military service during the Vietnam War.
“I have now spent more time in Vietnam than Da Nang Dick Blumenthal, the third rate Senator from Connecticut,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Trump said he discussed Senator Blumenthal’s service record with Vietnamese leaders, but a description of the meeting provided by the White House press secretary makes no mention of the conversation.
The president’s tweets were posted hours after The New York Times and other news organizations reported on an advance copy of the opening statement Mr. Cohen plans to give to Congress on Wednesday.
In the draft comments, Mr. Cohen writes that he was implicitly ordered to lie about a deal Mr. Trump was working on in Moscow, and that Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser, was communicating with WikiLeaks.
Mr. Cohen will also say Mr. Trump asked him to handle any negative press about his medical exemption from service in Vietnam because of a bone spur diagnosis.
“I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now,” Mr. Cohen plans to add. — Austin Ramzy
All eyes on the Metropole Hotel
In the week leading up to the summit, the news media feverishly guessed at the venue of the meetings between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. Would it be the State Guesthouse, a French colonial former governor’s residential palace? Or the Hanoi Opera House around the corner?
Now, with the White House’s confirmation that Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim would dine at the storied Metropole Hotel on Wednesday night, all bets are on that hotel to be the venue for the working sessions on Thursday as well.
Suites there are named after famous historic guests including Charlie Chaplin, Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham. A wall of photos in one hallway off the lobby also shows Jane Fonda, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Since Tuesday, guests have been required to pass through metal detectors and show identification confirming that they have paid rooms. Warnings have gone out that several facilities, including the hotel’s famed bars, will be closed Wednesday night.
Members of Hanoi’s mobile police force, in all black uniforms, white gloves, and carrying police batons, guarded the entrances. When asked Tuesday night if the preparations were for the summit meeting, one officer only smiled and said, “Security.”
One security measure in the Metropole’s favor: There’s a Vietnam War-era bomb shelter beneath the hotel. — Motoko Rich
[ Vietnam’s message to North Korea : Good relations with the United States made our economy boom.]
Is finally ending the Korean War in the cards?
North Korea and the United States have remained technically at war since the Korean War was halted in a truce in 1953, and Washington still keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea to prevent the war from rekindling.
Mr. Trump’s first meeting with Mr. Kim this week will be on Wednesday evening, White House officials said, with a one-on-one discussion at the colonial-era Metropole hotel before a dinner that will include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff; and possibly Kim Yong-chol, North Korea’s former intelligence chief and top diplomat.
But South Korean officials said on Monday that Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim could agree on a joint statement declaring an end to the war when they meet in Hanoi. It would be a political statement, not a formal peace treaty.
“We still don’t know exactly what format the end-of-war declaration will take, but there is an ample possibility of North Korea and the United States agreeing to such a declaration,” said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in. — Mike Ives
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