At their meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, Kim responded to an impromptu question yelled by a Washington Post journalist, predicting a bright future for US-North Korea relations.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on February 28, 2019

The brief exchange is believed to mark the first time the North Korean leader Kim has ever answered a question from a foreign journalist.

“It’s too early to tell. But I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic,” Kim said, speaking through a translator.

Later, Kim responded to other questions yelled from the assembled media. Journalists were stunned that Kim was interacting with them. North Korea is ranked 180th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

Trump: no hurry to sign a nuclear treaty with Kim, but diplomatic relations on the cards

Trump had told reporters that he was in no hurry to wrap up a deal with Kim.

“I’ve been saying very much from the beginning that speed is not that important to me,” he said. “Speed is not important to me. What is important is that we do the right deal.”

Last year’s headline-making summit saw the pair promise to work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Trump said this would happen “very quickly”, but there has been little concrete progress on this front.

Kim told a journalist at the present meeting that he may be open to complete denuclearisation. His response to a question on whether he would be open to North Korea giving up all its nuclear arsenal was variously interpreted as “If I’m not willing to do that, I wouldn’t be here right now” or “I wouldn’t have come here, if I didn’t have the will.”

Trump responded, “That’s a good answer. Wow.”

Trump said he was confident that North Korea could develop into an economic powerhouse. He forecast their meeting would be a “fantastic success,” but would not be drawn on details of what the pair would achieve.

“I’m sure over the years we’ll be together a lot,” Trump said.

The US President also raised the possibility of the US setting up a diplomatic exchange in Pyongyang. After initially avoiding the question, Kim said such a move could be “welcome”. Trump said he thought it was a “good idea” and Kim said they would discuss it more without the media present.

Trump told local state-controlled media the two leaders had set aside “mistrust, misunderstanding”

Before their official meeting, the two leaders had dinner. North Korean state media reported that Trump said the pair had overcome “mistrust, misunderstanding, hostility and old practices.”

He also reportedly urged “patience” and “deep thinking” to further progress the relationship.

Heading into the summit, the White House Correspondents’ Association issued a statement criticising the “capricious” US decision to limit press access to the dinner between the two leaders.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the limits were imposed because of “the sensitive nature of the meetings.” Others speculated that Trump’s team was simply reluctant to allow many questions to the US President given the explosive testimony given against him in Congress by his former lawyer Michael Cohen.