VGP - Bangkok, Ha Noi and Hawaii were three of the possible venues mentioned when the U.S. and Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) agreed to have a second summit. However, when the final decision was made just days ahead of the announcement by President Donald Trump during the State of the Union address, Ha Noi stood alone as the site for the second summit between him and DPRK’s leader Kim Jong-un on Feb 27-28.
In the beginning, Thailand had a good chance. As the current ASEAN chair, it would have been the best place to host the summit -- as was the case earlier with the previous ASEAN chair, Singapore.
However, after on-site inspections of both physical and social-political conditions in both capitals, Ha Noi emerged as the favorite. Hawaii was dismissed due to the distance and the time not being right for such a visit, as U.S.- DPRK ties have not been fully normalized.
At first glance, Thailand and Viet Nam share many similarities. First of all, they are both active in regional and international communities as ASEAN members. Viet Nam will be the next ASEAN chair after Thailand. Most importantly, Viet Nam is going to bid for a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2021. Thailand is also bidding to become a member of the UN Economic and Social Council for 2020-2022.
Second, both countries have good relations with all parties concerned with the Korean Peninsula -- the US, China, Japan and the DPRK and the RoK. The DPRK also has embassies in Ha Noi and Bangkok.
Third, they are in the same time zone and the flying distance from Pyongyang to both countries is roughly the same, a little over three hours, with Ha Noi a bit closer.
Fourth, the two capitals have excellent facilities and great places to stay as well as diplomatic experience to handle high-level meetings of all kinds.
However, three decisive factors helped Viet Nam win over Thailand -- the level of uncertainty about Thai political developments, the air pollution in Bangkok, and Viet Nam's successful economic model.
In comparison to Bangkok, Ha Noi is less problematic when it comes to security matters involving unexpected mass militias. No street protests on any issues are expected during the summit in Viet Nam.
Although Danang was at first the favorite city, having already hosted Mr.Trump during the APEC Leaders Meeting in November 2017, the summit was later changed to Ha Noi because Mr Kim is reportedly scheduled to make an official visit there on the sidelines of the summit.
As Mr Trump has said that DPRK is transforming into an economic rocket, the region's most suitable country to coach the hermit kingdom in the future development would definitely be Viet Nam. In the past four decades since it launched its economic reforms known as Doi Moi, Viet Nam has turned itself around from a battle-ridden nation to a leading Southeast Asian trading partner.
Since joining ASEAN in 1995, its transformation has become even speedier and more astonishing. Now Viet Nam is one of the region's economic powerhouses. Surely, Mr Trump wants to showcase Viet Nam's modernization and progress, with its original political system intact, as a model for DPRK to emulate.
At the Vancouver meeting on DPRK in January 2018, Washington reiterated there would be no regime change or troops dispatched across the 38th parallel, as far as current US-DPRK ties are concerned.
Furthermore, Vietnam is a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the world's high quality free-trade agreement. It would not be a surprise if Mr Trump were to give his personal stamp of approval to Viet Nam, stating that friendship and cooperation with the US produces good results./.