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North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump at the start of their Singapore summit on June 12, 2018. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore was heavy on drama but ultimately light on specifics. Kim agreed to complete denuclearization, and the U.S. to provide benefits, but all without articulated steps or timetables.

What's next: For all the to-ing and fro-ing ahead of the summit, it may well turn out that the Trump-Kim meeting was the easy part. Now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart must negotiate an actual plan that leads to complete denuclearization.

The work ahead will be hard and perhaps impossible. Pompeo's first task will be to demonstrate that there indeed is a shared understanding of what the two sides mean by "complete denuclearization," and to elicit a weapons declaration and lock in a timetable for their destruction. The administration should test the possibility that Kim is sincere about disarming without giving away tangible benefits ahead of true demonstrations of commitment. On that count, Trump's pledge to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea was a step in the wrong direction.

Throughout the process, the administration should recall that in Kim it is dealing with a true tyrant: a leader whose government virtually enslaves its population and keeps them in ignorance and poverty. Its terrible human rights record has no parallel in the world today. Presidents have met with — and legitimated — other brutal dictators when the benefits (Stalin fighting Hitler, for example, or Mao balancing the Soviets) were likely to outweigh the obvious costs. The key is to get something important in return.

The bottom line: Until Pyongyang starts destroying its nuclear weapons, the United States will not have gotten that something. And so the difficult phase now begins.

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

Go deeper

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56 mins ago - Economy & Business

The European Central Bank and the market's moment of truth

ECB president Christine Lagarde; Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The biggest event for markets this week will be Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank's governing council and the press conference following it from ECB president Christine Lagarde.

Why it matters: With interest rates jumping around the globe, investors are looking to central bank heads to see if they will follow the lead of Fed chair Jerome Powell, who says rising rates are nothing to worry about, or Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who has drawn a line in the sand on rates.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Manchin's next power play

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), America's ultimate swing voter, told me on "Axios on HBO" that he'll insist Republicans have more of a voice on President Biden's next big package than they did on the COVID stimulus.

The big picture: Manchin said he'll push for tax hikes to pay for Biden's upcoming infrastructure and climate proposal, and will use his Energy Committee chairmanship to force the GOP to confront climate reality.

Why picking a jury for the Derek Chauvin trial is so hard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The tough task of selecting a jury for former MPD officer Derek Chauvin's trial for the killing of George Floyd is set to begin Monday.

The state of play: "This case may be the most highly publicized criminal trial in a long time. ... That means that it's harder to find people who really have an open mind," Richard Frase, University of Minnesota Law School professor of criminal law, told Axios.