Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

President Trump at a news conference following his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Tuan Mark via Getty Images

President Trump caught the world by surprise once again yesterday with a decision not to sign a deal with his North Korean counterpart, Chairman Kim Jong-un, in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The big picture: While walking away is a common tactic in working-level negotiation, what happened in Hanoi was a rare case and the least expected outcome. Nonetheless, it might have been a much-needed reality check, not a failure, for both sides in the still-early stages of a long process of negotiation.

Between the lines: The U.S. negotiators publicly admitted before the Hanoi meetings that the two countries had not yet reached consensus on a number of key concepts, nor on much of the timing and sequencing details for denuclearization and corresponding measures. In Hanoi, the two leaders continued to find more divergence than consensus.

Yes, but: A failure to reach an agreement is not necessarily a failure of diplomacy. Trump could have left Hanoi with a deal of any kind just for the sake of it, but he decided that no deal was better than an insubstantial one that could hamper future negotiations.

  • By doing so, he not only appeared as a tough negotiator to his North Korean counterpart, but also shielded himself from the potential criticism of a bad deal, affording him more domestic political slack than the alternative might have.
  • His decision also sends a warning signal to North Korea that he will not let the country continue to set the tone and pace for the negotiations.

The bottom line: A return to hostility or to the path of war remains unlikely, as both sides are still committed to a diplomatic solution. The negotiations will resume sooner or later, and the misfortune in Hanoi might impart a different kind of momentum to what is destined to be a fluctuating, arduous diplomatic process.

Gi-Wook Shin is the William J. Perry Professor of Contemporary Korea and director of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University.

Go deeper

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.