This op-ed originally appeared in TIME, Jun. 13, 2018.
The handshake between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will go down in history. But it’s not yet clear if the summit will produce an equally historic outcome on denuclearization.
Despite Trump’s attempts to sell the summit document as a breakthrough, it reiterates a boilerplate commitment to “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” a pledge that North Korea has made, and broken, before. This vague, aspirational language is a long way from the “comprehensive document” described by Trump in his press conference following the summit.
However, it is premature to write the meeting off as a meaningless photo opportunity. In addition to an estimated 15-20 nuclear warheads, North Korea has developed a substantial infrastructure for producing fissile material for nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that can target the United States. Halting, reversing, and ultimately rolling back Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program was never going to be a quick process, solved in a single meeting. The true test of success lies in what follows. It will be the concrete steps toward denuclearization—or lack thereof—that will determine if the summit was a success or failure.
Read the full op-ed in TIME, Jun. 13, 2018.