U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would hold his second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on Feb. 27 and 28 while giving himself credit for avoiding a major war on the Korean Peninsula.
In his annual State of the Union address to Congress, Trump said much work remained to be done in the push for peace with North Korea, but cited the halt in Pyongyang's nuclear testing and no new missile launches in 15 months as signs of progress.
"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 in his address.
His relationship with Kim, he noted, "is a good one."
Trump met Kim on June 12 in Singapore in the first summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Trump has been eager to hold a second summit in spite of a lack of concrete progress in persuading North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States.
Communist-ruled Vietnam, which has good relations with both the United States and North Korea, had been widely touted as the most likely venue for the meeting. Trump did not say which Vietnamese city would host the two leaders, but both the capital, Hanoi, and Da Nang have been considered possibilities.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Vietnam in July and urged North Korea to follow its example, saying Trump believed Pyongyang could replicate Hanoi's path to normal relations with Washington and prosperity after its own war with the United States.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun was due to hold talks in Pyongyang this week to map out what he called "a set of concrete deliverables" for the second meeting.
The Singapore summit yielded a vague commitment from Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, where U.S. troops have been stationed since the 1950-1953 Korean War.
In the U.S. view, Pyongyang has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons. North Korea has complained that Washington has done little to reciprocate its freezing of nuclear and missile testing and dismantling of some nuclear facilities.
Pyongyang has repeatedly urged a lifting of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, a formal end to the war, and security guarantees.
Trump has hailed "tremendous progress" in his dealings with North Korea. But on the eve of Biegun's trip, a confidential report by U.N. sanctions monitors seen by Reuters cast further doubt on North Korea's intentions.
It said the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs remained intact and that North Korea was working to make sure those capabilities could not be destroyed by any military strikes.