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Summit 2.0: Trump and Kim to meet in late February

Kim Jong un and Trump
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Surprise: The U.S. and North Korea are talking about another summit, this one potentially in late February.

Why it matters: In the 220 days since Trump and Kim met in Singapore, there have been speeches, snubs, and occasional threats, but no substantial progress toward denuclearization.

The location of the summit has not been announced, but President Trump met for about 90 minutes in the Oval Office today with Kim Yong-chol, North Korea's lead negotiator in denuclearization talks.

  • Bill Bishop notes in Axios China: "I would not be be surprised if a meeting between Trump and China President Xi Jinping is added around this. The Chinese want another Xi-Trump face to face to close a trade deal before March 1."

The big picture:

  • Kim has stepped further out of his shell, improving relations with South Korea and China and establishing himself as a global player.
  • “Maximum pressure” against his regime has faded, but sanctions remain in place.
  • The North Korean leader has rejected the U.S. premise that denuclearization must come first, followed by sanctions relief. He has spurned what most experts consider step 1: documentation of his nuclear assets.

What's next: The Washington Post notes that Trump might come to the table with an offer, potentially including a declaration of the end of the Korean War, to secure a breakthrough.

The bottom line: We’re back where we started, with Trump and Kim taking center stage. Their rhetoric toward each other has been warm.

  • But as Van Jackson, a former Pentagon strategist and author of the new book "On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War," told Axios: “You are not in a stable situation if you rely on the whims and the caprice of individual leaders to prevent nuclear war.”