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State of the Union: Trump announces meet with Kim; vows to build border wall

Last updated on: February 06, 2019 15:24 IST

'If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea,' Trump said. 

IMAGE: President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, at the Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday. Photograph: Doug Mills/Pool via Reuters

United States President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on February 27 and 28 to jump-start a diplomatic effort to dismantle the reclusive nation's nuclear and missile programmes.

The announcement about the meeting came during Trump's second State of the Union address.

Kim and Trump met in Singapore last year, marking the first bilateral meeting between leaders of the two countries.

 

While North Korea since then has refrained from overtly provocative actions like testing nuclear warheads or ballistic missiles, it has yet to agree to actually give up any piece of its atomic arsenal.

Addressing Congress, Trump said progress has been made in his administration's efforts to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula.

“We continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped and there has not been a missile launch in more than 15 months,” Trump said during the address that lasted for more than 80m minutes.

“Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one,” Trump said.

“Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam,” he said.

Trump, however, also gave an ominous warning about the risks of heightened tensions with Pyongyang.

"If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea," Trump said.

WATCH: President Trump vows to build border wall

It is not clear in which city the summit will take place. Hanoi, the nation's capital, and Da Nang, a coastal resort town, have both been floated as possibilities.

A source familiar with the negotiations told CNN that North Korea favours Hanoi given that they have an embassy there. The US favours Da Nang given the fact that there was recently an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the city which means the US has already conducted a full check.

Vietnam, which has diplomatic ties with both Washington and Pyongyang, offers advantages for both leaders. Da Nang is an easy flight for Kim’s shorter-range aircraft and, for Trump, the country offers a symbolic nod to a communist country that has improved relations with the US since the end of the Vietnam War.

The lead US negotiator with North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is set to meet with his North Korean counterpart on Wednesday in Pyongyang.

With the summit between Trump and Kim just three weeks away, follow-up meetings at a working level will be needed, especially as there was no progress on denuclearisation during the last visit by a North Korean delegation to Washington in January.

The North Koreans have said that they would take steps on denuclearisation if the US takes corresponding measures, though Biegun said last week that one of his tasks will be to figure out exactly what that means.

Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded agreement at their first summit in Singapore pledging to work toward full denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Members of Trump's administration, meanwhile, acknowledge North Korea is still developing a nuclear weapons programme and US sanctions on the country remain in place.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers last week that ‘North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities, and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities’.

Coats said that the US intelligence has observed ‘some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearisation’.

In his address, Trump called for rejecting politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, but insisted on building a wall along the US-Mexico border.

His calls for reconciliation were met with mostly stone-faced silence from Democrats, who bitterly oppose his agenda and accuse him of hastening the decline in cross-party cooperation.

The president and the Democrats had a record 35-day standoff with the Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over his proposed controversial wall along the US-Mexico border, which shut down the government and postponed the address which was earlier scheduled on January 29.

"We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution," Trump told Congress near the beginning of his State of the Union address, claiming in his speech that he is putting forward 'the agenda of the United States'.

"An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations," the president said.

He said that tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate -- it is cruel.

"The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well-being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens,” Trump said in his State of the Union Address.

"This includes our obligation to the millions of immigrants living here today, who followed the rules and respected our laws. Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways.

"Now is the time for the Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business," he said.

Trump said his administration has sent to Congress a commonsense proposal to end the crisis on the southern border.

"It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.

IMAGE: Trump gestures during his State of the Union address. Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

"In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall -- but the proper wall never got built. I'll get it built," Trump said.

This is a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier -- not just a simple concrete wall, he said.

"It will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents as having the greatest need, and as these agents will tell you, where walls go up, illegal crossings go way down.

"Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let's work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe," said the US President.

He said that wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.

Meanwhile, working class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration -- reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools and hospitals, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net, he told members of the US Congress.

"One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north. Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country," he said.

Urging Republicans and Democrats to join forces again to confront an urgent national crisis, Trump said the US Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund the government, protect homeland and secure the southern border.

"We have just heard that Mexican cities, in order to remove the illegal immigrants from their communities, are getting trucks and buses to bring them up to our country in areas where there is little border protection.

"I have ordered another 3,750 troops to our southern border to prepare for the tremendous onslaught," he said.

This is a moral issue, Trump asserted and indicated that he will not back down from the issue which he believes is necessary for the safety and security of the country.

Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide open areas between the ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery, he alleged.

Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross the US border and flood into cities -- including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl, Trump added.

Informing Congress that his administration is holding ‘constructive talks’ with the Taliban, Trump said after two decades of war in Afghanistan, the hour has come to at least try for peace.

“Our troops have fought with unmatched valour -- and thanks to their bravery, we are now able to pursue a political solution to this long and bloody conflict,” the US President said.

“In Afghanistan, my administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban. As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism,” Trump said in his address to the joint session of Congress.

IMAGE: First lady Melania Trump applauds with cancer survivor Grace Eline as she is mentioned by the President in his address. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Currently there are 14,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan.

"We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement -- but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace," Trump said.

However, he warned opponents of any misadventure against the United States.

"Above all, friend and foe alike must never doubt this Nation's power and will to defend our people. Eighteen years ago, terrorists attacked the USS Cole -- and last month American forces killed one of the leaders of the attack," he added.

Trump vowed to right 'calamitous' trade policies and sought to expand his power to impose tariffs which he said would empower him to respond faster during trade wars.

He told Congress that Washington's aggressive trade negotiations with China would mean an end to its alleged 'theft' of US jobs and wealth.

"We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end," Trump said in his address to the joint session of the US Congress.

"Therefore, we recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods -- and now our treasury is receiving billions of dollars a month from a country that never gave us a dime. But I don't blame China for taking advantage of us, I blame our leaders and representatives for allowing this travesty to happen.

"I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act, so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to us," Trump said.

The United States Reciprocal Trade Act, if signed into law, could have consequences on bilateral trade with India.

The President hit out at what he called the 'ridiculous partisan investigations' into his presidency, a reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference into the 2016 election.

"We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad," Trump said.

Though Trump did not name the specific probes, his reference was seen pointed towards Mueller's probe to ascertain whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia ahead of the 2016 elections.

The president has long branded the special counsel's probe a 'witch hunt'.

"If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way!"

Lalit K Jha
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