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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

Updated 8 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.