U.S. officials appear to be going into the next summit with an understanding that their original approach to the talks—withholding concessions until Kim gives up his nuclear weapons—has so far proved a dead end. Instead, they may follow the more reciprocal formula that North and South Korean officials have long advocated: taking steps to establish peace and new relations with North Korea (the first two commitments made in the statement Trump and Kim signed in Singapore) in exchange for Pyongyang taking corresponding steps toward denuclearization (the third commitment). Skeptics caution that this may amount to falling for North Korea’s old tricks, in which it pockets rewards without giving up anything of value.
In a New Year’s Day speech, Kim hinted at one possible deal: capping the country’s production of nuclear weapons and promising not to use them first in a conflict or transfer them to others in return for relief from international sanctions. “We declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them,” the North Korean leader noted, but none of that could happen while the United States persisted in pressuring his country.