Trump says he will meet North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in late February

  • President Donald Trump plans to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam at the end of February.
  • The lead U.S. negotiator with North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is set to meet with his North Korean counterpart on Wednesday in Pyongyang.

President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam at the end of February as part of his administration's efforts to roll back the country's nuclear program.

Addressing Congress during his second State of the Union, Trump said his relationship with North Korea's leader is "good" and progress has made in his administration's efforts to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula.

Trump, however, said much work remains to be done and gave an ominous warning about the risks of heightened tensions with North Korea, going so far as to claim that Washington and Pyongyang would be at war if he had not been elected president.

US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

"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.

Trump's second face-to-face meeting with Kim will take place on Feb. 27-28, though it is not clear where in Vietnam the summit will be held. Hanoi, the nation's capital, and Da Nang, a coastal resort town, have both been floated as possibilities.

The lead U.S. negotiator with North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is set to meet with his North Korean counterpart on Wednesday in Pyongyang. He said that he hoped the meeting with Kim Hyok Chol would map out "a set of concrete deliverables," according to Reuters.

The U.S. Department of State referred CNBC to the White House. The White House and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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

The White House said last month that the summit was set for late February after Trump met for an hour-and-a-half with North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol. The president "looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim," the White House announced in a readout.

After the summit last year, the president declared that North Korea's nuclear arsenal no longer posed a threat to the United States. Experts said at the time that it was not clear that such an optimistic claim was warranted.

North Korea has said that it will not get rid of its nuclear capabilities unless the United States no longer poses a threat. That has included demands that the U.S. remove its troops from South Korea, which the U.S. has said is not negotiable.

Limited progress

Progress has been limited since the Singapore summit.

North Korea is reportedly still working on new missile development projects. U.S. intelligence assessments indicated that the country increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in the months before the Singapore summit, NBC News reported last summer.

U.N. monitors said this week that they believed that North Korea was working to protect its ballistic missiles against American military strikes. Monitors for the international body also said that they believed the country was illegally evading sanctions against it, rendering the penalties ineffective.

The rogue state remains the only country to test nuclear weapons this century.

In 2017, North Korea launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send more missiles into the waters near Guam.

Since 2011, Kim has fired more than 90 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests, which is more than his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched over a period of 27 years.