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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a Workers' Party of Korea meeting in Pyongyang. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

The secret early April visit to Pyongyang by Mike Pompeo, the CIA Director and Secretary of State nominee, suggests that the unprecedented summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place after all.

Why it matters: Face-to-face negotiations are terra incognita for two countries used to threatening and pressuring each other. Even with North Korea now talking about denuclearization and Washington weighing the prospects of a deal, the outcome of the summit — and what it might mean for U.S. allies in Seoul and Tokyo — remains highly uncertain.

Despite the appeal of sanctions relief, it is hard to imagine that Kim Jong-un has experienced a great enough change of heart to hand over his nuclear weapons and materials. North Korea's nuclear program has been decades in the making, and its officials have routinely described their arsenal as a final deterrent against external aggression.

What's next: Initial talks will gauge how willing — if at all — North Korea is to declare and verifiably dismantle its programs, and how much the Trump administration is prepared to offer in return. The Trump-Kim summit could kick off complicated and lengthy negotiations, or it might be a bust, ending at an impasse too deep for even a head of state–level exchange to bridge. Then the alternatives to diplomacy — each of them unattractive in different ways — may well represent the Trump administration's renewed focus.

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

Go deeper

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

Texas AG sues Biden administration over deportation freeze

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to members of the media in 2016. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration in federal district court over its 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants, and he's asking for a temporary restraining order.

Between the lines: The freeze went into effect Friday, temporarily halting most immigration enforcement in the U.S. In the lawsuit, Paxton claims the move "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security.