Kim arrives for nuclear summit with Trump after marathon train trip

Following a historic first meeting in Singapore in June that produced a vaguely worded statement about Kim's nuclear arsenal, analysts say the second summit in Vietnam's capital Hanoi must this time put substance ahead of bonhomie.

This picture from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken and released on 1 January, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un delivering a New Year's speech at an undisclosed location. Picture: AFP

DONG DANG - Kim Jong Un crossed into Vietnam Tuesday after a marathon train journey for a second summit showdown with US President Donald Trump, with the world looking for concrete progress over North Korea's nuclear programme.

Following a historic first meeting in Singapore in June that produced a vaguely worded statement about Kim's nuclear arsenal, analysts say the second summit in Vietnam's capital Hanoi must this time put substance ahead of bonhomie.

Kim's trademark olive green train chugged into the normally sleepy Vietnamese station of Dong Dang following a 4,000-kilometre, two-and-a-half-day odyssey shrouded in secrecy.

Schoolchildren waving North Korean flags and a military guard of honour in pristine white uniforms greeted Kim, the first North Korean leader to visit Vietnam since his grandfather Kim Il Sung in 1964.

Wearing his trademark Mao-style black suit and surrounded by a crush of security, Kim smiled and waved as he was ushered into a waiting Mercedes Benz and his motorcade rolled off towards to Hanoi, his bodyguards at first trotting alongside his vehicle.

Trump was taking a more conventional route to the meeting on Air Force One and was expected to arrive in Hanoi late Tuesday. He tweeted he was looking forward to a "very productive" second meeting with Kim.

The US president again dangled the carrot of economic progress for North Korea if it gives up its nuclear programme. "With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse," tweeted Trump. "Without it, just more of the same."

"Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!"

Relations between the two mercurial leaders have undergone a dramatic turnaround, from flinging personal insults and threats of destruction to Trump declaring he had fallen "in love" with Kim through an exchange of letters.

But many North Korea watchers dismissed the Singapore summit as a piece of political theatre that failed to produce a concrete roadmap to denuclearisation and stressed that the Hanoi meeting must deliver more.

"The window for diplomatic progress with North Korea will not remain open indefinitely. The second summit... must emphasise substance over pageantry," said Kelsey Davenport from the Arms Control Association.

Concrete details about the summit have been few and far between but White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One the two leaders would dine together Wednesday with close advisors.

'NO TESTING, WE'RE HAPPY'

Diplomatic progress since Singapore has stalled over the definition of "denuclearisation," with Stephen Biegun, the US Special Representative for North Korea, admitting there was no "shared agreement" of what that means.

The United States has repeatedly demanded the North give up its nuclear arsenal in a final, fully verifiable way.

But Pyongyang sees denuclearisation more broadly, seeking an end to sanctions and what it sees as US threats -- usually including the American military presence in the South, and sometimes in the wider region.

In the run-up to the summit, Trump appeared to lower US demands for Pyongyang, repeatedly saying there was no rush to rid the North of its arsenal as long as missile and nuclear tests stopped.

"I don't want to rush anybody. I just don't want testing. As long as there's no testing, we're happy," said Trump.

He also hinted more summits could follow the Hanoi meeting, reducing expectations of a dramatic breakthrough in the Vietnamese capital.

Pyongyang insists it has already taken major steps, by not testing ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons for more than a year, and blowing up the entrances to its atomic test site.

The North also wants increased security guarantees, which could come in the form of a declaration of an end to the 1950-53 Korean War -- that ended with an armistice instead of a full peace treaty -- or opening liaison offices.

"I believe that the possibility is there," South Korea's presidential Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters about a formal declaration to end the war.

"There is no way of knowing what kind of declaration it might be, but I believe the US and North Korea may reach an agreement."

Opening liaison offices would signal the first stage of normalising US-North Korean relations, said Go Myong-hyun of the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, and would be an ideal "politically symbolic step" rather than prematurely agreeing to sanctions relief.

Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest said Trump and Kim need to take "at least one step forward on denuclearisation" in Hanoi.

"Nothing would be worse than for either side to come out of the meeting as if it was a waste of time," he said.