US President Donald Trump waves a Vietnamese flag as he is greeted by students during a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump in a Twitter blitz hours before his highly anticipated talks with Kim Jong-un sought to sweet talk the North Korean leader into giving up Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal while also taking aim at critics who say the summit is political theatre aimed at distracting Americans from his domestic woes.
The irascible leader reserved choice words for top domestic opponents – including his one-time fixer Michael Cohen, who is expected to testify against him before Congress at the same time as the summit.
And amid speculation that Trump will go soft on Kim, the US leader in a tweet two hours before the talks were to begin wrote that there was “false reporting” about his intentions going into the meeting.
“Kim Jong-un and I will try very hard to work something out on denuclearisation and then making North Korea an economic powerhouse,” the president wrote.
“I believe that China, Russia, Japan and South Korea will be very helpful.”
Trump, tweeting from the JW Marriott Hotel in Hanoi where he is staying for the two-day talks with Kim starting this evening, said North Korea could become like Vietnam – also communist-ruled – if it decided to denuclearise.
“Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearise,” he wrote. “The potential is awesome, a great opportunity, like none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong-un. We will know fairly soon – very interesting!”
It was one of several tweets by Trump from Hanoi, the host city of the second round of his nuclear talks with Kim. Upon his arrival, Trump hailed the “great reception” and “tremendous crowds, and so much love”.
The American leader has sought to offer incentives over punitive measures dealing with the young North Korean leader in recent weeks, departing from the vitriol he hurled at Pyongyang in the early days of his presidency.
In the afternoon, Trump again took to Twitter, this time to lambast Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic Party senator who is one of his most strident domestic critics. The two clashed last year over the senator’s record as a Marine Corps reservist during the Vietnam war.
“I have now spent more time in Vietnam than Da Nang Dick Blumenthal, the third rate Senator from Connecticut,” Trump wrote.
“His war stories of his heroism in Vietnam were a total fraud – he was never even there. We talked about it today with Vietnamese leaders!”
On Cohen, Trump described his one-time aide as “one of many lawyers who represented me”.
The disgraced lawyer, convicted last year for campaign financing infringements, is scheduled to testify before Congress later on Wednesday – around the same time as Trump’s meeting with Kim – on the links between the US leader’s 2016 election campaign and Russia.
Text of Cohen’s planned statement showed he will call Trump a “racist”, a “con man” and a “cheat”.
Trump in his tweet about Cohen said the debarred lawyer was “lying in order to reduce his prison time”.
He said Cohen was using “Crooked’s lawyer”, referencing his infamous nickname for arch political rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet at 6.30pm local time (7.30pm HKT) at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel. They will have a brief one-on-one meeting before joining top aides for dinner.