Ahead of a second US-NK summit in Hanoi later this month, President Trump has continued praise the brutal North Korean dictator whom he once derided as "rocket man" - despite persistent warnings from the intelligence community that Kim Jong Un has no intention of surrendering his country's nuclear arsenal, and that his conciliatory rhetoric is merely a ruse.
In a series of tweets sent Friday night, Trump affirmed that the summit would take place on Feb. 27 and 28, something he had previously suggested during his State of the Union speech, and once again asserted that North Korea under KJU has the potential to become " a great Economic Powerhouse" which might "surprise some but won't surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is."
Assuming that the North complies with US demands to abandon its nuclear arsenal, "North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket - an Economic one!"
My representatives have just left North Korea after a very productive meeting and an agreed upon time and date for the second Summit with Kim Jong Un. It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 & 28. I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2019
North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse. He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is. North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket - an Economic one!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2019
The implication here is clear: Trump has some serious leverage over Kim, as he holds the key to admitting North Korea into the global economy, which could lavish immense economic benefits on the extremely impoverished country. That should be a pretty powerful incentive: Currently, half of NK's 25 million people live in extreme poverty, and 70% of its people depend on government assistance for food.
Prior to the SOTU, reports suggested that the Vietnamese city of Danang would be the venue for the second historic summit. But BBG's anonymous sources said the Vietnamese wanted to hold the summit in their capital instead because it would be a "more prestigious" location.
During the speech Trump said that while "much work remains to be done," he was hopeful his "good" relationship with the North Korean leader would yield results in ongoing nuclear talks.
"We continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula," Trump said.
All of this belies the fact that astonishingly little progress has been made between the US and NK since their first historic summit in Singapore last year. The main point of conflict is this: the US insists that NK finish abandoning its nuclear stockpile before economic sanctions are lifted, while the North wants a gradual schedule of sanctions relief to coincide with a gradual reduction in its nuclear holdings.
But the US intelligence community has repeatedly warned that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nukes, which the Kim regime views as essential to its survival.
Meanwhile, with US trade talks with China looking like they will continue past the Trump Administration's March 1 deadline, the possibility of renewed tensions between China and the US is another complicating factor. President Xi is Kim's puppetmaster, and he retains the ability to jerk Kim's leash at any time, especially once trade talks fail to reach the outcome desired by Beijing.