The biggest win for the North would be to get a peace declaration while quietly abandoning denuclearization altogether, or by agreeing to production caps or other measures that would limit, but not eliminate, its nuclear arsenal. Simply having a summit without a clear commitment to denuclearization goes a long way toward establishing him as the leader of a de facto nuclear state.

Unless Washington is willing to accept him as such, that will only make future talks all the more difficult.

The U.S. has, however, continued to take a hard line in lower-level negotiations leading up to the summit.

Stephen Biegun, Trump’s new point man on North Korea, stressed in a recent speech that as a prerequisite for peace, Washington wants a “complete understanding of the full extent of the North Korean weapons of mass destruction missile programs,” expert access and monitoring of key sites and, ultimately, “the removal and destruction of stockpiles of fissile material, weapons, missiles, launchers, and other weapons of mass destruction.”