Vietnam seeks diplomatic boost with Korea summit

Vietnam has emerged as the favoured location for the proposed second meeting between President Trump and the North Korean leaders, Kim Jong-un.

Both the US and North Korea are reported to have suggested Vietnam as a likely site, with Chinese reports saying that Kim backed Vietnam during his recent talks in Beijing with President Xi Jinping.

A Vietnam summit would be something of a diplomatic coup for Hanoi – a vote of confidence in the stability of the country and its economic model.

The United States is keen to promote Vietnam as an example of what can happen when Washington reconciles with a former enemy.

It will hold up its growing trade and investment ties with Vietnam, and their growing strategic partnership, as an example of the rewards in store for North Korea should it agree to denuclearise.

The Trump administration would also hold up Vietnam’s embrace of a free market economy, however qualified it may be, as an example for North Korea to follow.

Kim has also made no secret of his interest in the Vietnam model of economic development, mentioning it in meetings with his South Korean counterpart, and dispatching senior envoys to Vietnam.

However, the Vietnam example sends another powerful message that North Korea would be keen to exploit, particularly with its domestic audience.

While the Korean war ended in stalemate in 1953 and the peninsula remains divided, it was the northern communist state that prevailed in Vietnam and eradicated its southern US-backed rival.

Kim’s arrival in a communist authoritarian state, that once humiliated the United States in war, for a meeting with a US president suing for peace would be something of a propaganda coup for the young leader.

The decisive factor in the choice of venue, however, is likely to be security.

Kim’s visit to Singapore for the first summit with Trump was a radical departure for a regime that fears plots and assassination attempts at every turn.

Vietnam, as a neutral authoritarian state with a land border with North Korea’s Chinese ally, would appear to tick some of the security boxes.

However, Kim will not sign off on a venue for the summit until he’s convinced that security procedures are watertight.