Attention now focused on whether the United States will offer to lift sanctions
Next week's summit between the leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the United States will be decisive, as both sides are expected to press for more tangible moves to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, experts say.
The second meeting between Kim Jong-un, top leader of the DPRK, and US President Donald Trump, is scheduled for Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb 27-28. Their first summit was held in Singapore in June.
Attention has been focused on whether Washington will offer to lift some economic sanctions on Pyongyang, in return for Pyongyang taking concrete steps toward denuclearization.
On Monday, DPRK's Rodong Sinmun newspaper published an editorial saying the country is now facing a "significant, historic turning point".
"It is time for us to tighten our shoestrings and run fast, looking for a higher goal as we face this decisive moment," the newspaper reported, without saying whether it is indicating the second summit.
Meanwhile, Kim Chang-son, a senior official from the DPRK's State Affairs Commission, was reportedly inspecting Samsung Electronics' smartphone factory in Vietnam on Sunday. He was in charge of protocol during the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore.
The move spurred speculation that Kim Jong-un may also visit the Samsung factory when he travels to Vietnam. Reuters reported that Kim will arrive in Vietnam on Feb 25 ahead of the meeting and visit the Vietnamese manufacturing base of Bac Ninh and the industrial port town of Hai Phong. The Samsung smartphone-producing line is also located at Bac Ninh.
Experts said the visit, if it takes place, will reflect Pyongyang's strong will to develop its economy, while also sending a message to the international community that the country is seeking foreign investments.
"Kim's visit could show that North Korea (the DPRK) is interested in Vietnam's reform model, and, at the same time, send a message that it wants investment from global companies, like Samsung," Yonhap news agency quoted Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, as saying.
Yonhap also said that as the DPRK holds most of the peninsula's mineral resources, it was once wealthier than its neighbor - the Republic of Korea.
In 2017, the United Nations Security Council banned the DPRK's main exports - coal and other mineral resources, fisheries and textile products - to cut off its access to hard currency in response to Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Wang Junsheng, an associate researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Kim has sent a strong signal in his 2019 New Year's speech that he wants to develop the country's economy, but the core depends on whether the DPRK can get rid of the international sanctions, Wang said.
"And the key to getting rid of sanctions depends on the attitude from the United States," he added.
"If Pyongyang keeps on the path to its nuclear ambition, it will catch the attention of the region and the world, but will go against the tide of the times when nuclear proliferation is strongly opposed to. On the one hand, there is little likelihood that the US and UN Security Council will ease economic sanctions making it hard for the DPRK to shift its strategic focus to economic development."
"On the other hand, the US will almost certainly enhance its military presence in the ROK, which will further push the peninsula closer to a warlike pattern. The DPRK will continue to face military pressure from the US, the ROK and Japan, and its security environment will hardly improve", Wang said.
The choice of Vietnam as the venue for the second summit probably was a means for Washington to suggest that Kim follow the path to prosperity taken by Vietnam, Wang said.
In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Trump believes the DPRK can "replicate" the "once-unimaginable prosperity and partnership" the US has with Vietnam today.