Leading into the Hanoi summit, observers were abuzz about what would happen, but few predicted the way it ended: no agreement. The most anticipated four key deliverables from Hanoi were: an end-of-war declaration; establishment of a liaison office in Pyongyang; concessions on the Yongbyon nuclear facility in exchange for sanctions relief; and continued cooperation on repatriation of Korean War remains. After all the speculation, what observers ended up seeing was an empty lunch table, a canceled signing ceremony, and one world leader on the stage for the press conference instead of two.
Now comes the time when many will speculate about the danger of "no agreement." Some will worry that it portends a backslide to the days of "rocket man," "dotard" and "fire and fury." Others will wonder whether it is possible to break a diplomatic impasse that could not be resolved with both leaders present. Still others will question if any of this diplomacy is worth it at all.
There is, however, an upside to "no agreement." For diplomacy with North Korea to be successful, the negotiations themselves must shape the Kim regime's behavior. This means that commitment to process is critical, boundaries are as important as concessions, and a rushed deal on denuclearization is self-defeating.