In the past two decades, the U.S. has tried negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program and punishing it with tough economic sanctions. Neither approach has worked.
Trump took office in 2017, criticizing his predecessors, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, for failing to contain North Korea, and has vowed to get tough with the Kim regime. Trump and Kim soon began a verbal war of nuclear threats that greatly escalated tensions.
But the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February of this year brought a thaw. South Korean President Moon Jae-in invited North Korean athletes and a delegation of North Korean officials to the Games. That led to a meeting between Moon and Kim in April, during which the North Korean leader broached a meeting with Trump.
The world watched the summit between North Korea and the U.S. with great expectations and a lot of anxiety. Experts emphasize that anything could happen—or nothing. Some believe that unlike his predecessors, Kim sincerely wants to make peace with his neighbor and America, build his economy, and usher North Korea into a new age of openness with other nations.
But whether North Korea will actually give up its nuclear weapons, which the regime has long viewed as necessary to its survival, remains to be seen. Trump has indicated that he expects Kim to do so. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” he tweeted after the summit.
However, experts point out that the two nations have been down this road before: North Korea made similar agreements to abandon its nuclear weapons program with each of the three previous presidents, only to fail to follow through on them.