US hopes North Korea will follow Vietnam’s economic path

Vietnam, which is reportedly preparing for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to arrive by train for his summit with Donald Trump in Hanoi on February 25, is being held up as an economic model for the Pyongyang regime to follow.

The journey might take almost three days through China by train, meaning he would have to set off later this week. All the plans are subject to change and based on anonymous sources.

At the Vietnamese border stop of Dong Dang, the strongman leader is due to leave his train and drive 170km to Hanoi by car.

It is also rumoured the preferred location for the February 27-28 summit is the colonial-era Government Guesthouse in central Hanoi.

Kim Jong Un’s aide, Kim Chang Son, has been visiting various locations in the capital, including the guesthouse.

Travel has been the preferred mode of transport for Kim Jong Un, his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung.

Vietnamese model

The choice of Vietnam as a venue reflects US hopes that North Korea can be encouraged to embark on economic and political reforms, similar to those followed by the communist authorities in Hanoi since the 1980s.

In July last year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo openly called on Kim to follow Vietnam’s example.

“In light of the once-unimaginable prosperity and partnership we have with Vietnam today, I have a message for Chairman Kim Jong-un: President Trump believes your country can replicate this path,” the hawkish Pompeo said.

Vietnam has turned from a communist dictatorship into an open market without weakening the ruling party’s grip on power.

Today, the one-party state is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Trump appears to believe Kim is serious about economic reform, first iterated at a congress of his Workers’ Party of Korea in 2016 when the Pyongyang leadership shifted its emphasis from military-based security to development.

Kim in his new year’s address last month announced a shift in resources from munitions to agriculture and non-military output.

The hope is that the Vietnamese model might be inspiring this shift.

The US and the ally of the former Soviet Union normalised relations in 1995, and bilateral ties are increasingly close. This is, in part, inspired by a mutual suspicion of China and its military expansion into the South China Sea, to which Hanoi has extensive claims.

Repeated bilateral meetings have occurred between the two states, including a visit to Hanoi in December by North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, that was reportedly focused on Vietnam’s economic reforms.

Pham Binh Minh, the Vietnamese foreign minister, has just returned from a visit to Pyongyang to prepare for the summit.


The US hopes Kim Jong Un will look to replicate Vietnamese prosperity. Picture credit: AllFreePhotos