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Trump departs US for Vietnam, summit with North Korea's Kim

By AFP | February 26th 2019
US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, February 25, 2019, bound for a two-day summit in Hanoi, Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. [AFP]

Donald Trump departed Washington Monday bound for Vietnam and a second historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with the US president saying he will push for Korean denuclearization.

Shortly before his departure from the White House, Trump spoke optimistically about what he expected would be a "very tremendous summit," adding that "we want denuclearization" on the Korean peninsula.

He fleshed out his approach with a tweet, saying: "With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse. Without it, just more of the same."

Trump last met Kim eight months ago in their historic talks in Singapore, where the two signed a largely symbolic joint agreement.

At a White House event Sunday, Trump appeared to temper any expectations of a major breakthrough at the follow-up in Hanoi, saying sanctions imposed over Pyongyang's missile and nuclear tests would remain.

"The sanctions are on. Everything is on. But we have a special feeling and I think it will lead to something very good. Maybe not," Trump said.

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

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

But at the same time, North Korea says it has completed the development of its arsenal and the facilities are no longer needed.

At Joint Base Andrews near Washington, Trump boarded Air Force One, turning to deliver a crisp wave before the presidential jet departed at 12:34 pm (1734 GMT) bound for a Wednesday-Thursday summit in Hanoi.

Arrival in the Vietnamese capital is expected Tuesday evening local time.

His departure came as an armored train carrying Kim Jong Un and members of his delegation trundled southward through China to Vietnam, in a journey cloaked in secrecy.

At last June's summit the two leaders signed a joint agreement in which their countries committed to work towards "a complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

But the lack of progress since then has drawn criticism that the leaders were only after headlines and short-term gains.

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