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Trump-Kim Summit

Five things to know in the wake of the Trump-Kim summit

The foggy agreement is likely to draw out a difficult negotiating process

Trump Kim
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump both held back during their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island, Singapore, on June 12. (Getty Images) 

SINGAPORE -- U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought their nations into a new diplomatic era on Tuesday. But so far, that era is clouded by euphemisms, many of which made their way into the joint statement both men signed after lunching together.

Leading up to the summit, the Trump administration was insisting that Kim "completely, verifiably and irreversibly" rid his country of nuclear weapons. Kim, meanwhile, was talking about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, which could entail the U.S. pulling its nuclear umbrella back from South Korea.

Here are five questions that people are asking about the summit.

What is, and what is not, included in the joint declaration?

The document signed by the two leaders says North Korea "commits to work towards complete denuclearization of Korean Peninsula" and that the two nations will "join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula."

Although at first glance the wording sounds fair -- the Kim regime gives up its nuclear weapons for a security guarantee from the U.S. -- the document does not say when or how North Korea might dismantle or dispose of its nuclear weapons. Crucially, all mentions of denuclearization refer to the Korean Peninsula, not to North Korea.

Trump spoke to reporters for more than an hour after the summit and admitted that "we didn't have time" to get down to details.

The words "comprehensive," "verifiable" and "irreversible" -- so important to Washington whenever it spoke of North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons before the summit -- do not appear in the document.

Also not in the document is any concrete language that the two old enemies who fought against each other in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 would work on a peace treaty to officially end the conflict.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was hoping to join Trump and Kim in Singapore on Wednesday but never got the chance.

Were there any surprises?

As for the joint statement, no. As the summit neared, many experts noted that the two parties had little time to prepare anything substantive and therefore it was likely that Trump and Kim would sign a vague declaration, then trumpet it as a success. In the days leading up to the summit Trump appeared to be downplaying hopes for a big breakthrough.

Most of the surprises came in Trump's press conference, most notably his incidental announcement that the U.S. will stop holding joint military exercises with South Korea. "Under the circumstances that we are negotiating a very comprehensive complete deal, I think it's inappropriate to have war games," he said.

This is seen as a big concession to the North.

Did Kim get more out of the summit than Trump?

That may be the case, but not by much.

In a note issued on Wednesday, the Eurasia Group consultancy said "Kim won on denuclearization language that was included in the joint statement and Trump's decision to suspend US 'war games,' with Trump winning by not offering Kim sanctions relief or economic aid or fast-tracking work on a declaration to end the Korean War or a peace treaty."

Rudiger Frank, a professor of East Asian Economy and Society at the University of Vienna, tweeted that Trump was correct in not rushing the deal.

The Institute for Science and International Security on Tuesday issued a report saying that neither the joint statement nor Trump at his press conference mentioned anything about "commitment for commitment" or "action-for-action." This kind of procedure was noted in a 2005 pledge by member nations of the so-called six-party talks. But, the institute said, "this formula had the unfortunate effect of stretching out the process, essentially leaving the most difficult decisions to later years, when the deal fell apart."

However, North Korea’s official KCNA news organization on Wednesday reported that the U.S. had agreed with North Korea on “step-by-step and simultaneous action.”

It could be that the two sides are selectively disclosing information based on convenience.

What comes next?

The U.S. and North Korea are expected to start a series of negotiations to come up with a definition of "denuclearize the Korean Peninsula" and details on how to go about the job.

It is not known how long these negotiations might take.

The so-called Iran deal, in which the Middle Eastern country agreed to scale back its nuclear weapons development program for a certain number of years in exchange for the lifting of economic snactions, was nearly two years in the making and required another six months before implementation.

The deal was made while Barack Obama was president of the U.S. Trump reneged on the agreement a little more than a month ago.

The concern now is that North Korea will ride out the economic sanctions, draw out the negotiations and buy time to develop more nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Already there are reports that China is giving its neighbor an avenue around the sanctions.

Since Trump has already torn up a nuclear deal with another country, it would be reasonable for Kim to assume the next U.S. president will do likewise with whatever deal Trump strikes. This could be another incentive for Kim to drag out the negotiating process.

Other countries have stakes in the North Korea situation. What does the Trump-Kim agreement mean for them?

South Korea, China and Japan all welcomed the summit -- at least in official comments and statements.

China has been eager to show the world that it is a significant player in the North Korea situation. Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a news conference that "China stands ready to continue to play a constructive role." He also mentioned the need to mull over the sanctions that the U.N. Security Council imposed on North Korea and that China is reportedly bypassing.

Deutche Bank Wealth Management on Wednesday released a memo titled, “Trump-Kim meeting: watch China.” It says China is another uncertainty, besides Trump and Kim themselves, in “both the areas of North Korean denuclearization and any opening-up of its economy.”

Kim chose to improve relations with China by visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping twice before meeting Trump. It is possible that China will further ease the sanctions against North Korea to once again gain influence on the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, if China decides to use the situation as leverage in its trade row with the U.S., Xi could end up as the summit's big winner.

South Korea was caught off guard when Trump said the U.S. would no longer conduct joint military drills with its longtime ally. The remark could inject some anxiety into South Korean military officials who on Thursday will hold high-level talks with their North Korean counterparts.

Researcher Zvjezdana Odobasic in Vienna contributed to this article.

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