Donald Trump publicly urged “my friend Kim” to see Vietnam as an example of the economic growth North Korea could achieve if it abandons its nuclear weapons ahead of the pair’s dinner meeting on Wednesday.
The US president said that Vietnam, which is hosting the two-day summit between himself and Kim Jong-un, was “thriving like few places on earth” as he spent the day in Hanoi meeting the country’s leaders.
Scores of children waving Vietnam and American flags greeted Mr Trump as he first met Vietnamese president Nguyen Phu Trong and then prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Mr Trump signed trade deals which will see more than 100 Boeing jets sold to Vietnamese airlines and support more than 83,000 American jobs, according to a senior US administration official.
The meetings preceded Mr Trump’s talks with Kim, with the pair due to have a 20 minute one-to-one discussion before a wider working dinner at one of Hanoi’s French colonial-era hotels.
The leaders will have more negotiations on Thursday. Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning:
Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize. The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon - Very Interesting!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2019
The comment reflected the US president’s hope that Kim is willing to give up his nuclear arsenal, and any means of production and distribution of the weapons, in return for support in North Korea’s economic development.
Mr Trump emphasised a similar point during his meetings with Vietnam’s leaders.
“I got off of Air Force One last night and I drove down the boulevards and I saw all the buildings under construction and how Vietnam is thriving,” Mr Trump said during a meeting with Vietnam’s president.
Mr Trump said that he had a “very big dinner” with Kim coming up, adding: “We both felt very good about having this very important summit in Vietnam because you really are an example of what can happen with good thinking.”
Kim and Mr Trump will hold their second summit in the Metropole, a luxury French colonial-era hotel with a colourful history of hosting dignitaries, writers, heads of state and celebrities including Charlie Chaplin and American actress Jane Fonda.
Ms Fonda graced the hotel’s corridors for two weeks when she visited then-enemy territory in 1972 during her anti-war campaign. A controversial photo of the actress sitting atop an anti-aircraft gun sued against American planes earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane” and has haunted her ever since.
The 118-year-old Metropole has named an entire second floor suite after another of its famous residents – author Graham Greene, who resided in the hotel as he wrote part of his seminal 1955 work, “The Quiet American”, which depicts the breakdown of French colonialism in Vietnam.
Politicians including former French Presidents Jacques Chirac and Francois Mitterand, and Hollywood celebrities Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have also enjoyed stays in the best of its 364 rooms.
The five-star hotel can now add Kim and Mr Trump to its hall of fame, and guard new secrets within its walls as it witnesses another chapter in the quest towards a deal over Kim’s nuclear arsenal.
On Wednesday morning, elite Vietnamese security forces in riot helmets blocked the entrance to the hotel and surrounding streets, normally jammed with commuters on motorbikes, were cordoned off.
Its location in the throbbing heart of downtown Hanoi has given security officials a headache. President Trump, who arrived on Tuesday night, has opted for the easier-to-secure JW Marriott, while Kim is staying at the nearby Melia Hanoi hotel.