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N Korea at crossroads

Three months after Trump-Kim summit: Where five leaders stand

With denuclearization talks stalemated, the two leaders seek another meeting

SEOUL/TOKYO -- It has been three months since the historic U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore, but no visible progress toward denuclearization has been made, and talks between the two parties are at a stalemate.

Frustrated, U.S. President Donald Trump is nevertheless setting up another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The White House on Monday said Kim sent Trump a "very warm" letter, requesting such a meeting.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the two parties are coordinating a second summit. She did not confirm when or where it will be held. Trump also tweeted that "there is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other."

Here is a look at what the leaders of the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan have earned and lost since the unprecedented Singapore summit.

Donald Trump: On the right track, but...

  © Reuters

The U.S. president won credit for reducing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and for North Korea returning remains of U.S. soldiers who died during the Korean War. More recently, though, doubts about North Korea's willingness to denuclearize have been rising in Washington. This led to the cancellation of a trip Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was going to make to Pyongyang.

The stalemate looks like this: The U.S. is demanding that North Korea document its nuclear arms and facilities. Pyongyang has countered by insisting that Washington first declare the end of the Korean War.

That war is technically on hold, although fighting ceased in 1953 with the signing of an armistice.

Analysts say Trump put the complicated nuclear issue on the right track but that it will take much time for results to materialize.

"What happened since Trump came in is [that Kim], after taking testing right up to the edge, really did reverse direction, both in terms of stopping [and] putting a moratorium on testing," said John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University's Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul. "Establishing a new kind of relationship between the U.S. and North Korea is not something that is going to happen overnight. The same is true with denuclearization. It's a process, not an event."

Kim Jong Un: Deja-Vu

The North Korean leader has gained more than Trump. By shaking hands with the president of the United States, he showed the world that he and his nation play a role in the global community. The young dictator also won the cessation of military drills between the U.S. and South Korea that kept the two allies prepared for peninsular contingencies.

However, North Korea still suffers from tight economic sanctions that Washington is unwilling to loosen before Pyongyang takes concrete steps toward denuclearizing.

And Kim, despite his big day on the global stage, faces continued diplomatic isolation as the U.S. leans on other countries, including China, not to help Pyongyang until Kim yields in the denuclearization talks.

Analysts say Kim's request for a second summit with Trump -- as well as another face-to-face with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang next week -- is an attempt to escape from these tethers.

"It's deja-vu," said Park Won-gon, a professor of international relations at Handong Global University in Pohang, South Korea, noting that Kim is in the same position he found himself in when he made his New Year's speech. Kim wished in January that South Korea could host its first Winter Olympics successfully amid military tensions between North Korea and the U.S. were intensifying. His address paved the way for the country sending its delegation and athletes to the sports event and making detente mood between two Koreas which led to the Singapore summit later in June.

Moon Jae-in: In trouble at home

  © Reuters

South Korea's president is eager to help Trump and Kim produce something concrete. Moon, whose family hails from an area in what is now North Korea, believes his mission is to mediate between Washington and Pyongyang.

The South Korean president is pushing Trump and Kim to make bigger concessions.

"Now, we need big designs and bold decisions from the leaders of North Korea and the U.S. if we want to proceed" Moon said in a meeting with his Cabinet on Tuesday. The next step, he said, "is to dismantle the nuclear arms owned by North Korea."

Moon faces a different crisis. He is quickly losing popularity. Operators of mom and pop stores, which heavily rely on part-time workers, are upset by plans to raise the minimum wage by double digits for two consecutive years. Moon's support rate dropped to 49% last week, down from 83% in the first week of May, according to Gallup Korea. Voters, it seems, care more about the economy than inter-Korean relations. Even some part-timers are not welcoming Moon's policy as troubled small business owners fire them and fill the vacancies by their family members.

Xi Jinping: Sidelined

China's President flexed his influence by twice meeting with Kim before the Singapore summit and hosting him again after Kim made his global debut on June 12. In addition, Kim arrived in Singapore aboard a jetliner provided by China.

Since the summit, Trump has accused Xi of interfering in the denuclearization talks. Trump later linked the North Korean issue with the U.S.-China trade war. The kerfuffle is thought to have weighed on Xi's decision not to go to Pyongyang this past weekend, when Kim celebrated the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding.

"Xi's decision to skip the North Korean ceremony was definitely in consideration of the U.S.," said Lee Geun, a professor of international relations at Seoul National University's Graduate School of International Studies.

Shinzo Abe: On the periphery

  © Reuters

Since the Singapore summit, Japan's prime minister has been seeking direct talks with Kim to discuss North Korea's abductions of Japanese and to resolve the decades-old cases. But no visible progress has been made.

Experts say Japan and its issues with North Korea have been relegated to the periphery. According to Yonsei University's Delury, the U.S. and the two Koreas occupy center stage. A half step behind Moon, Trump and Kim is Xi, who is "trying to remain a part of that," Delury said. "But Russia and Japan, although they have a lot of interests and concerns, they are not in the front pack diplomatically."

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