US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were last night in place for their second summit to address arguably the world’s biggest security challenge.
Mr Kim’s pursuit of a nuclear program that stands on the verge of realistically threatening targets around the planet will again be at the centre of today’s meeting.
Although many experts are sceptical Mr Kim will give up the nuclear weapons he likely sees as his best guarantee of continued rule, there was a carnival-like excitement among many in Hanoi as the final preparations were made for the meeting. There were also huge traffic jams in the already congested streets.
The two leaders are to meet over two days, first at dinner today followed by meetings tomorrow.
Mr Trump arrived late yesterday in Air Force One after a flight that included refuelling stops in England and Qatar. He shook hands with dignitaries on a red carpet that was flanked by members of the Vietnamese armed forces dressed in crisp white uniforms.
The route to his hotel was decorated with American, North Korean and Vietnamese flags. Adults and children peered out from upper floor windows holding up mobile phones to capture Mr Trump’s arrival. “Tremendous crowds, and so much love!” the US president tweeted.
Mr Kim’s journey to the summit, though shorter, was even more protracted. To get to Hanoi, he took a nearly 70-hour train ride through southern China and then travelled from a Vietnamese border town in his limousine.
Hours ahead of his border crossing at Dong Dang, footage showed Mr Kim taking a pre-dawn smoke break at a train station in China.
In Hanoi, soldiers, police and international journalists thronged the streets outside Mr Kim’s hotel. Hundreds of eager citizens stood behind barricades hoping to see the North Korean leader.
Dozens of cameras flashed and some citizens screamed and used their mobile phones to capture Mr Kim’s rock-star-like arrival.
Mr Kim ventured out of his locked-down hotel and spent yesterday travelling around the Vietnamese capital in his armoured limousine.
The leaders first met in June in Singapore – a summit that was long on historic pageantry, but short on any enforceable agreements for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal.
North Korea has spent decades building its nuclear program and there is widespread scepticism among experts that it will give away that program cheaply.
Mr Trump laid out ultimate goals on Monday, saying: “We want denuclearisation and I think he’ll have a country that will set a lot of records for speed in terms of an economy.”