American diplomats have quietly held multiple meetings with North Korean officials in Vietnam to discuss holding a second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the southeast Asian nation, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday.
The State Department has so far not confirmed the report, although it came a day after Mr. Trump himself claimed his administration is in the midst of “negotiating a location” for a follow-on summit to that held with Mr. Kim last June in Singapore, saying “it will be announced probably in the not-too-distant future.”
While the president made no explicit reference to any direct meetings that may have taken place between U.S. and North Korean officials in recent days or weeks, he told reporters at the White House on Sunday that he has “indirectly spoken to Chairman Kim.”
“We have a very good dialogue. I’m going to not go any further than that,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m just going to say it’s very special.”
His comments ran counter to critics who say the administration’s diplomatic push with North Korea has faltered in recent months amid demanding rhetoric from Pyongyang and little movement from Mr. Kim toward abandoning his nuclear weapons program.
With that as a backdrop, South Korea Munhwa Ilbo newspaper reported Monday that State Department officials in Hanoi recently contacted North Korean officials based in the Vietnamese capital to discuss a possible date for a Trump-Kim summit to be held there.
The report offered no other details but said it was based on “diplomatic sources in Seoul and Washington.” Reuters cited the Munhwa article as noting that Vietnam has diplomatic relations with both Washington and Pyongyang, and that North Korea maintains a diplomatic office in the country, which has the symbolic significance of being a communist country with a reformed economy.
It was not clear whether any Trump administration officials, such as U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, partook in direct meetings with North Korean officials that may have taken place in Hanoi.
Officials have told The Washington Times in recent weeks that Mr. Biegun has yet to hold any direct meetings with his North Korean counterparts amid the stall in progress on denuclearization talks with Pyongyang.
Mr. Biegun has, however, held repeated meetings with his South Korean counterparts in recent weeks, with the most recent occurring in Seoul last month, according to the State Department.