While pundits continue to discuss the outcome of the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, one thing remains certain, there is a long road ahead for any detailed implementation regime. The summit represents a first, yet crucial, step that creates political space within which to negotiate many difficult issues.

The road to the June 12 summit went through every regional player except Japan. After the U.S. and North Korea signaled a shift in their approaches, North Korea held summits with Beijing and Seoul. And Russia's foreign minister even met with Kim.

Japan, however, has not held any formal bilateral meetings with these actors. Instead, afraid its interests would not be addressed, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe organized a trip in April to meet Trump to remind him of Japanese concerns and coordinate strategies. Another one occurred on June 7. Compared with the active summitry among Kim, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump and China's President Xi Jinping, Abe appeared to be locked out of regional diplomacy. Instead, Tokyo has been forced to rely on Washington to advocate for its interests.