Last year Kim Jong Un wagered that he could transform North Korea's relations with the United States, South Korea and other powers. Despite months of flashy diplomacy, North Korea's future remains hazy. The world wants to know how the long Cold War ends, but a second Trump-Kim summit will not yield closure. Retreating from his exuberance after the Singapore summit, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that denuclearization had only a "decent chance."
While the U.S. and North Korea may appear to be set for a protracted stalemate, by the end of next year ties will head in one of two directions: Either sufficient progress is made to justify continuing rapprochement, or frustrations over the lack of substantive progress will terminate the diplomatic opening with the Kim regime.
The U.S. should not give up on diplomacy just yet. The alternatives are ugly, and there is a reason to believe that 35-year-old Kim wants to develop and modernize his country.