Updated May 24, 2018

We're back where we started with North Korea

A man walks past a television news screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump at a railway station in Seoul on May 16, 2018. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump’s abrupt decision to call off the scheduled June 12 summit with Kim Jung-un does not change the fundamental dynamics between the U.S. and North Korea: There was no way the summit could have succeeded so long as the Trump administration defined success as a North Korean agreement to total denuclearization.

Better that the summit was postponed than to have ended up in dramatic failure, which would have led some to conclude (incorrectly) that diplomacy had been tried and failed, leaving a dangerous and costly war as the only U.S. alternative.

Yes, but: The cancellation does highlight the lack of a viable U.S. strategy. Given the regime's resilience, allied with Chinese and Russian assistance, sanctions and war threats will not bring North Korea to its knees. Worse yet, there is the risk that North Korea could now increase the quality or quantity of its arms.

North Korea–U.S. relations now remain where they have long been, and where they most likely would have remained had the summit gone ahead. The central question is whether the U.S. is willing to accept a diplomatic outcome short of total North Korean denuclearization. Such a deal could include a prolonged suspension of nuclear and missile testing in exchange for a degree of sanctions relief and diplomatic recognition.  Such a deal would not follow the model of Libya or Iraq or Ukraine, as Kim is understandably wary of their example. 

The bottom line: For North Korea and elsewhere (Iran and China trade come to mind), the Trump administration will have to decide between what it wants and what is possible. All-or-nothing foreign policy will lead either to failed diplomatic gambits, like this one, or, worse yet, conflict.

Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “A World in Disarray.”

Go deeper

The race to catch Nike's Vaporfly shoe before the 2020 Olympics

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Four months ago, on the very same weekend, Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run a marathon in under two hours, and fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei shattered the women's marathon record.

Why it matters: Kipchoge and Kosgei were both wearing Nike's controversial Vaporfly sneakers, which many believed would be banned because of the performance boost provided by a carbon-fiber plate in the midsole that acted as a spring and saved the runner energy.

Go deeperArrow32 mins ago - Sports

Reassessing the global impact of the coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economists are rethinking projections about the broader economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak after a surge of diagnoses and deaths outside Asia and an announcement from a top CDC official that Americans should be prepared for the virus to spread here.

What's happening: The coronavirus quickly went from an also-ran concern to the most talked-about issue at the National Association for Business Economics policy conference in Washington, D.C.

Tech can't remember what to do in a down market

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Wall Street's two-day-old coronavirus crash is a wakeup alarm for Silicon Valley.

The big picture: Tech has been booming for so long the industry barely remembers what a down market feels like — and most companies are ill-prepared for one.