President Trump departed on Air Force One Monday for Vietnam and his second face-to-face summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. The meetings take place in Hanoi Wednesday and Thursday, and expectations are low in terms of major breakthroughs on the big issue of denuclearization. However, most of the advance coverage emphasizes that both leaders are known for their unpredictability. Details:
- End to war? South Korea is floating the possibility that Trump and Kim will agree to a formal end to the Korean War, reports the New York Times. “We still don’t know exactly what format the end-of-war declaration will take," says a spokesperson for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, "but there is an ample possibility of North Korea and the United States agreeing to such a declaration.”
- No fun: Vietnam has deported a Kim lookalike, reports AFP. The Hong Kong man known as Howard X has been making the rounds of Hanoi this week with a Trump lookalike from Canada named Russell White. White can stay, but he has to stop making public appearances as Trump.
- Personal touch: A Washington Post analysis notes that Trump has made much of his personal rapport with Kim, and that's a big reason for the face-to-face summit. From the story: "Since their historic first meeting in Singapore last June, the two leaders have each adopted a strategy of playing to the other’s ego with gushing and gratuitous adoration in pursuit of their aims: For Trump, North Korea’s denuclearization; for Kim, its economic revival and respect on the world stage."
- Diplomats' fear: NBC News runs through some of the incentives Trump could offer Kim: low-level diplomatic relations, the aforementioned end to the war, or even the withdrawal of US troops, though the latter is seen as unlikely. “One of the worst possible outcomes is (Trump) makes some crazy deal pledging to withdraw US troops for a vague promise of denuclearization,” says a former senior US official. More likely are incremental agreements toward denuclearization.
- A big question: Satellite photos suggest North Korea's main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon is operating as usual, reports NPR. That might seem to fly in the face of the North's stated commitment after the first summit to move toward "complete denuclearization," though Kim has kept any promises on the subject vague. The Yongbyon reactor can make weapons-grade plutonium, and only ground inspections would be able verify what's happening there. That's another area of possible compromise in the talks.
- Upstaged? CNN reports that Michael Cohen's testimony on Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee threatens to overshadow the president's trip. Cohen is expected to testify about the tactics of the Trump campaign and the Trump Foundation, and Democrats are eager to make the most of the Cohen's turn in the spotlight.
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