Trump and Kim Jong Un to hold high-stakes talks in Vietnam

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," February 26, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. CORY GARDNER, R-COLO.: Kim Jong-un is a two-bit dictator who puts his own interests ahead of the people of his country, and I don't think that has changed. And so what the United States must do is continue to apply our pressure, every bit of maximum pressure we can.

MICHAEL ANTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: Regime survival is the fundamental priority of the North Koreans and of Kim Jong-un. So this question of dangling carrots about economic development in front of them, it really boils down to whether Kim has had a change of heart, whether he thinks that economic development, money, capitalism, prosperity is a better guarantor of regime survival than a nuclear program.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: That is a big question, what will happen here in Hanoi as the two leaders meet in just a few hours from now. We have two journalists here in Hanoi covering this summit: Jonathan Cheng is the Seoul bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, and Deb Reichmann is the national security reporter for the Associated Press. Thanks both for coming in as this summit begins. Let's just set the table for folks sitting at home. What do you think are the expectations heading in?

JONATHAN CHENG, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Look, we've had one summit already in Singapore last year. We all remember that. That I think was to establishment a relationship between the two leaders and to get on the page where the two can be, if not friends, then at least in the same room talking about some of these big issues together. Now the question is we need to get some brass tacks, we need to get some specific deliverables in hand here. So we're going to be talking about the peace treaty potentially --

BAIER: On the Koreas.

CHENG: Yes, or moving towards that to end the Korean War. We're going to be talking about the nuclear program of course. And perhaps just building a better relationship, I think that is the real question.

BAIER: You hear, Deb, that skepticism up on Capitol Hill, and you heard the testimony not only from generals who are responsible for this area but the U.S. intelligence agencies, saying there hasn't been a reduction. In fact, it's been building up. What are we seeing tangibly? They haven't tested missiles, they haven't shot anything recently.

DEB REICHMANN, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right. I think he hasn't pledged to never test again. What they initially agreed to do, he never said he was going to stop doing anything. So the fact that he hasn't is no surprise to anyone really.

BAIER: Is there the same level of skepticism inside the military and the intelligence folks that you talk to about what's coming at the end of these summits?

REICHMANN: I think so, but you have to remember the intelligence people do not make policy. The idea is for them just to tell the policymakers what they are seeing. And I think you have to give the president the option of doing what he thinks is right with that information.

BAIER: And he has this rapport, he talks about at all the time, these letters that have gone back and forth with Kim Jong-un. The place of the first summit in Singapore and then here, maybe sending a message about the economic vitality of these places, that you too can have this.

CHENG: Both of these countries are notable for sharing the same characteristic that presumably Kim wants, which is economic development without losing essentially single party rule where he can stay on top and presumably pass along rule to a fourth-generation of Kims. And you can see prosperity here in Vietnam, and when you think about the history of the U.S. and Vietnam and the war of course in the 60s and the 70s and where you are now, I think that's potentially an attractive model to show to Kim.

BAIER: But explain to people at home, deb about the end of this war officially and what potentially that means. We have heard that they are not talking about pulling troops out, but the end of the war changes the dynamic.

REICHMANN: A little bit. It's a political statement. It's not a peace treaty. There was no peace treaty in 1953. They would have to actually tee up a process to get the nuts and bolts together on a peace treaty itself, and that could involve other countries as well, and other international organizations. So it's a symbolic gesture more than it is anything.

One analyst told me, though, that it's creaky, is what he referred it, he said it's like a 1957 Chevy in Cuba today. It's just really old, and if no one is really fighting one another, there's really no point to it. So it's an easy thing I think for the president to do. But again, it's the big shiny object over here, and it's not the denuclearization which is the reason why the talks are there to begin with.

BAIER: Even if he had step-by-step, like things are starting to happen, and the Reagan trust but verify, they set up some organization that is going to look at this, would that be seen as a success out of this summit?

REICHMANN: I think one thing that people are worried about is whether or not -- first of all, it's a top-down negotiation which is different from what has been in the past.

BAIER: Usually they send people in and they set it all up.

REICHMANN: At some point this macro horse-trading on a macro level is going to have to be moved down to a working level. And if Kim doesn't think that the working level people have the voice to say what the United States is willing to do, if only Trump has that, it's difficult for me to see how they can get down into the nitty-gritty of the details of, say, trust, verify, all the different things that you have to do to make sure that Kim is doing what he says he's going to do.

BAIER: And Seoul is watching very closely.

CHENG: Yes, that's right. And President Moon Jae-in there is a big supporter of this process. He definitely wants the Korean War end to end. He has said if that there is a peace declaration, an end of war declaration, a step towards a peace treaty, it doesn't mean U.S. troops need to pull out. And we have heard similar voices saying that from the U.S. side as well. But of course, I think you raised that point that Kim Jong-un is going to look around and say, well, if the state of war is over, what are all these 28,500 U.S. troops doing in South Korea? So I think you can have that debate coming up next, even if they say it's not on the table here.

BAIER: He didn't like the White House press corps in his hotel, so we'll see what happens after this. Thank you both for coming in. We have a busy couple of days here in Hanoi. We appreciate it.

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