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Leader Kim and President Moon at the summit dinner banquet. Photo: Inter-Korean Summit/POOL/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The summit between North Korea's Kim Jong-un and the South's Moon Jae-in was rich in symbolism and breathtaking in its dramatics. The two leaders — who just months ago were preparing for possible war — held hands, crossed into each other's territory, posed for photos and joked together. They also made commitments that, if fulfilled, would represent a huge step toward peace on the peninsula.

Yes, but: Much turns, however, on whether those commitments are indeed fulfilled. Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula and to pursue a peace treaty that would officially end the Korean War. Yet the pledges included no timeline for the North's denuclearization, no process for verifying steps toward it nor a plan for how Kim would detail his nuclear and missile arsenals.

Flashback: North Korea has made similar promises in the past and always failed to follow through. In 2005, Pyongyang agreed to abandon all of its nuclear weapons and programs but did not do so. Earlier, it froze plutonium production only to be caught secretly enriching uranium.

What's next: As Kim's meeting with President Trump looms, Washington can be expected to insist on timelines for denuclearization and specific verification protocols. Administration officials have hinted that they will insist on early disarmament steps by the North before granting any sanctions relief. If Trump makes such demands, the real test will begin — and we will learn if any sincerity lies within Kim's latest set of commitments.

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

Go deeper

3 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.

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