ALEXANDRA RADILALEH WRITES– Thirty-one years after an unlikely relationship, Pham Ngoc Canh, a Vietnamese man, and Ru Yong Hui, a North Korean woman, were finally married in 2002, when North Korea allowed Ru to marry a foreigner. Now, almost two decades later, the couple sees hope that their two countries’ relations will further improve.

A second DPRK-US summit meeting is scheduled to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam on February 27 and 28. The summit is poised to spark new hopes for three countries —Vietnam, North Korea and the US—as they aim to collectively move forward and overcome their turbulent histories in the name of world peace.

Looking back, the 2018 summit resulted in an agreement to work toward peace and prosperity and a commitment to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. But over the last seven months, a plan of action has not materialized. Still, with each meeting comes more hope. Surely continued trust building can’t hurt. The way Vietnam’s Pham and North Korea’s Ru figure, if their love has endured, why not expect at the very least improved relations between their home countries, with the support of the US?

The Strategic Decision Behind Vietnam Today

Where do things stand now? Currently, China’s maritime expansionism has provoked dissatisfaction with countries that share the South China Sea. In this context, the United States regards Vietnam as a strategic partner in the region. Similarly, Hanoi sees it as an opportunity to join forces with Washington. In addition, North Korea has an embassy in Hanoi and has expressed openness to Vietnam’s economic reforms. And of course, Vietnam has become the U.S.’ third largest trading partner.

There’s a lot of work to be done, for sure. Historically, the DPRK has been unsupportive of North Vietnam/ US cooperation and has challenged Vietnam’s dominance in Indochina.

But both sides have made recent efforts to expand ties; in fact, North Korean state media reports more than 35 exchanges with Vietnam, whether letters, phone calls and civilian exchanges in 2018 alone.

(Former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung talks with Ho Chi Minh, chairman of the Workers Party of Vietnam, during his Pyongyang visit in July 1957)

Reflecting on the international hurdles Ru and her husband underwent prior to their marriage, Ru says, “If you’re a North Korean, you want to see this resolved. But politics is complicated. When people first heard Kim Jong Un decided to meet Trump, they expected reunification to happen soon. But that’s hard to realize in just one or two days. I hope things work out well.”

While Ru and Pham are happily married, the future of relations between North Korea and Vietnam is of course far less certain. At this point, it’s a matter of hurry up and wait.

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