The much anticipated second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un ended here yesterday without any agreement. This outcome was not because of Vietnam; the scenario required a significant rapprochement between the U.S. and North Korea.
Things turned out as they did, but Vietnam as a country and Hanoi as the host venue, can rest assured of having provided every condition to achieve the best result. Some say that the encounter between Trump and Kim was a failure, and others say that it was a valuable experience because it created the basis for future negotiations on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the gradual lifting of North Korean sanctions.
What everyone agrees on, starting with the presidents of the U.S. and the State Affairs Committee of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea is that Vietnam did not overlook any details in trying to make the summit a success. Trump and Kim recognized this on more than one occasion.
By chance, I overheard the response that a foreign journalist gave a colleague from a local radio station who asked what Vietnam had failed to do to make everything perfect. “The weather,” replied the interviewee. “This would have been perfect with a blue sky.” True, the sky was gray, and it drizzled, but if the summit was blustery, it was due to other reasons, not to cloudscapes in the meeting’s organization.
Apart from the way things ended — because of America’s refusal to lift some of the sanctions imposed on North Korea despite its offer to dismantle part of its nuclear facilities — the protagonists themselves do not consider this a lost meeting.
And this is one of Vietnam’s greatest satisfactions.
According to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the summit was a great success for Vietnam despite the short time it had available to organize it, only about 20 days. Singapore, which sponsored the first summit, had longer than two months to prepare.
Xuan Phuc, who is committed to the cause and feels responsible to the international community, valued the publicity of being a peace-loving Vietnam as the foremost prize for serving as the site for the summit.
And while I do not recall anyone mentioning it, it should be noted that this is an excellent endorsement for Vietnam’s aspirations to hold a nonpermanent position in the United Nations Security Council during the 2020-2021 biennium.
Every Vietnamese citizen, depending on their various responsibilities, also appreciated how much the Indochinese nation gained by hosting such an important meeting.
For example, officials of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism emphasized that this was a golden opportunity for a world audience to learn about the traditions, food, natural beauty, and infrastructure that this country contributes to clean industries.
The effort to strengthen Vietnam’s image, one must say, could be seen from taxi drivers and officials to the humblest citizens who attended various negotiation sessions with a ready smile, eager to show that Hanoi is known as the “City for Peace.”
More than 600 journalists from around the world who came to cover the summit were the principal means of sharing this reality. It is worth noting that they did this from a press center equipped with every resource and state-of-the-art technologies enabling them to do their jobs well.
Before or during the summit, many of them took advantage to deliver news reports and conduct interviews about the complexity of life in the capital and in neighboring cities and provinces. After the event, many reporters remained here to prepare further news reports and interviews about life in Hanoi.
The Vietnamese hosts would have preferred that the Trump-Kim meeting had ended with a closer rapprochement of American and North Korean positions and with a relaxation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
It was not to be, but everything that Vietnam did to attain the parties’ goal of rapprochement, even though it was postponed, establishes it as the winner of the summit.