Trump announces new US-North Korea summit in State of the Union speech

United States President Donald Trump before Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the annual State of the Union address, 5 February 2019.
United States President Donald Trump before Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the annual State of the Union address, 5 February 2019. Doug Mills/Pool via Reuters

United States President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un for the second time at the end of this month, Trump said in a delayed State of the Union address on Tuesday.


Trump said the summit will take place in Vietnam on 27-28 February.

The leaders’ first summit in Singapore in June ended with a vague pledge from Kim to work towards denuclearisation, without offering a concrete plan for how to do so.

South Korean officials expressed hopes the second Trump-Kim summit will produce “more concrete and practical” steps towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Japan and Australia expressed similar wishes that the summit would turn the words of good will in the first summit into a real plan to make it happen.

Trump used the annual presidential address to say that much work remained to be done in the push for peace, but took credit for a halt in nuclear and missile tests.

“If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea,” Trump said.

From Afghanistan to domestic issues

Trump voiced hope that the US military in Afghanistan would soon end, citing recent and unusually long negotiations with representatives of the Taliban in Qatar.

“We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement, but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace,” Trump said of efforts to stop the US’s longest-ever war.

But most of the annual address to Congress, which was delayed by a partial shutdown of the US government, was aimed at his priorities and political opponents at home.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” Trump said in reference to the shutdown, which is fuelled by Democrat opposition to his plans for a wall on the border with Mexico, and to the inquiry into Russian meddling in the US election by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, named as Speaker in the House of Representatives after the Democrats won a majority in last November’s midterm elections, watched the president with a neutral expression from the dais behind him throughout the address.

Congresswomen wear white

Pelosi joined many Democrat congresswomen in wearing white in homage to the suffragist movement.

They shook their heads when Trump presented his vision of illegal immigrants overrunning America.

But the white-clad congresswomen erupted in cheers and applause when Trump said the thriving economy had helped female employment.

“You weren’t supposed to do that,” said a smiling but bemused Trump.

The president then urged the women to remain standing as he told the room that a century after women won the right to vote, there were more female members of Congress than ever before.

That led to a rare moment of unity, with Democrats and Republicans both standing and chanting “USA, USA!” during an address that otherwise drew mixed reactions and underlined the polarisation that has characterised Trump’s campaign and presidency.

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