February 26, 2019

Summit datebook: From Hanoi, with curiosity

By Duyeon Kim

I landed in Hanoi a few days ago, curious. Curious about a once-divided country, now a growing economy, with South Korean footprints all over its business and pop culture, that can also relate to North Korea’s socialist system. Curious if we will see real progress this time on rolling back Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program—whether there will be enough signs that indicate Kim Jong Un will embark on a credible path toward denuclearization or successfully manipulate President Donald Trump into front-loading on valuable US rewards. Curious if, without enough time to negotiate before the summit, American negotiators would be able to secure some concrete gains or be forced to again accept Pyongyang’s preferences and language for a deal and the way forward. US Special Representative Steve Biegun and his team know what a good deal looks like, and they have no illusions. But they’re faced with many tough variables that come with the territory of dealing with North Korea. And then there’s the Trump factor.

I’m curious if Trump will stay on script or ad-lib his way into bad deal. Curious if there will be some pronouncement of “peace” or an end to hostilities, and what Pyongyang might give in return for it. Curious, despite my skepticism and the world’s familiarity with North Korea’s nuclear playbook, whether I will be proven wrong and denuclearization is actually proven possible. As a specialist, this is the one forecast where I’d love to be wrong.

I went up to our hotel situated in Hanoi’s old quarter (Pho Co or “ancient town”), where the CBS outdoor live studio is being built on a balcony overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake. The major broadcast organizations have set up shop along this lake. The backdrop is important for TV news. I hug familiar faces from the Singapore summit—the cameramen, technical crew, and producers—and meet new colleagues working this one. They never get enough sleep covering a major story like this, but the jokes and laughter never stop.

I’m working again as a CBS news contributor with Evening News anchor Jeff Glor and a great CBS team, as was the case for the Singapore summit. My job is to provide on-air commentary and offer off-air guidance that might be helpful to the anchor, correspondents or producers.

Read the full article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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