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President Trump during an Oval Office meeting on May 17, 2018, and Kim Jong-un during the inter-Korean summit in Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. Photo: Saul Loeb/Korea Summit Press Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The cancellation of the widely anticipated Trump–Kim summit in Singapore represents the latest turn in a period of dramatic zig-zag diplomacy: Just a few months ago, the President was calling Kim "Little Rocket Man" and threatening to destroy his country, while Kim was testing missiles and talking about nuclear attacks.

The big picture: The future of North Korea policy is likely to look much like the past, and the recent spate of high-level engagement merely an aberration in the Washington–Pyongyang standoff.

What's next: With the prospect of a comprehensive denuclearization deal off the table for now, the Trump administration will likely get back to basics: resuming economic pressure, threatening force and ramping up rhetorical attacks. Pyongyang can be expected to issue belligerent statements, test weapons and possibly even try to detain a visiting American or two. China and South Korea will be the wild cards in the U.S. pressure campaign — they are necessary for it to be effective, but they may try to portray Trump as the intransigent party.

And the impasse — Washington wishing to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons, Pyongyang wishing to keep them — will return in high relief.

Richard Fontaine is the president of the Center for a New American Security.

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

Biden delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the Capitol. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden signs executive orders and swears in day one presidential appointees in a virtual ceremony.

Mike Allen, author of AM
28 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's inauguration signals a great American reset

President Biden prepares to walk the abbreviated parade route in front of the White House after the inauguration. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

President Biden had exited his Cadillac with the new "46" license plates and was strolling a short stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue toward his new home when he spotted "Today" show weather legend Al Roker.

The big picture: Biden dropped Jill Biden's hand — no warning — and trotted over to the delighted Roker. POTUS gave Roker a fist bump and said, "Gotta keep doing this!" It was a very Joe moment in a day that was designed to signal a return to normality in a turbulent America.

Chuck Schumer is now majority leader as 3 new Democratic senators are sworn in

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is officially Senate majority leader after the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris and the swearing-in of new Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

Why it matters: With a 50-50 Senate, Schumer will control a narrow majority with Harris as the tie-breaking vote. Democratic control of the Senate is crucial to President Biden's agenda, from getting his coronavirus relief proposal passed to forgiving student debt.