February 15, 2019 | 03:00 am PT

Kim to check out Vietnam for himself before Trump summit: report

Kim to check out Vietnam for himself before Trump summit: report
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses for photos in Pyongyang in this January 1, 2019. Photo handed out via Reuters

Kim Jong-un could arrive in Hanoi two days before his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump and visit several places in northern Vietnam.

The North Korean leader could visit key industrial sites and meet with Vietnamese President and Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, South Korean television network MBC reported, citing a source close to the matter.

The source said Kim could arrive as early as February 24, or 25th at the latest. The summit is on February 27-28.

He might visit Hai Phong, an industrial port city two hours east of Hanoi, and the nearby Ha Long Bay, a world-famous tourist destination.

Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said during a three-day visit to the North Korean capital Pyongyang this week that Vietnam is willing to share its experience in development and international integration with North Korea.

Observers have opined that the choice of Vietnam as an economic model for North Korea to follow is rooted in historical, ideological and practical reasons.

Vietnam had a hostile past with both the U.S. and South Korea due to the Vietnam War, in which the latter was involved, but now Vietnam is an important economic and security partner of both nations, Le Hong Hiep, a fellow at Singapore’s ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, said.

Vietnam had also suffered a certain imposed isolation like North Korea, but later successfully implemented market-based economic reforms and opened up the country to international integration, which is a path "both Washington and Seoul would like to encourage Pyongyang to take," he said.

Kim spoke recently of his vision for economic reforms.

In three meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last year, he repeatedly cited Vietnam’s successes, South Korean media reported.

During a visit to Hanoi last July just after his visit to Pyongyang, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also referred to Vietnam, which now enjoys burgeoning trade ties with former foe U.S., as a model for North Korea.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, during his trip to Vietnam last November, told the Vietnamese government that North Korea hopes to learn from Vietnam’s model of development.