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Still Confused about the Trump-Kim Summit? 12 Pressing Questions, Answered

What’s the best-case and worst-case scenario we can hope for from the Trump-Kim commitment? And how can anyone be sure that North Korea is really denuclearizing? Well, for starters, the two sides would need to establish what denuclearization means.

The historic meeting of the two world leaders in Singapore on Tuesday left many open questions. Bloomberg hosted a live chat about the Trump-Kim summit on the LINE messaging app, where people tuned in to have their questions answers by editors. Below is an abridged transcript.

Between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, who got the better deal?

Both Trump and Kim got things they want. Trump appears to have resolved the immediate threat of war and cast himself as a peacemaker. But Kim’s wins — suspended U.S. military drills, new international status, improved relations with China and South Korea and talk of easing sanctions — are more substantial.

What are the chances that the Koreas will actually be united as one nation?

They’re better now than they were a year ago. But reconciling the two political systems is a daunting challenge. More likely is decades of economic and cultural integration before anything that could be described as unification is possible.

How will this change relations between the U.S. and South Korea, particularly the presence of U.S. troops?

Well, so far, Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are pretty much in line. There are still few details about Trump’s decision to suspend U.S. “war games” in South Korea, which could fuel discussion about a weakening of the alliance. While Trump has talked about lowering overseas troop deployments, he says that’s not on the table for South Korea right now.

What do we now know about Kim Jong Un that we didn’t know before, based on his presence at the summit?

We know that Kim is far less cautious about his public appearances than many had surmised. He didn’t look exactly comfortable strolling around Singapore’s tourist spots, surrounded by a phalanx of guards, but he spent more than two hours out on the town, and was happy to have those images published back in Pyongyang.

How can anyone be sure that North Korea is really denuclearizing? And how can the U.S. make sure Kim will keep his commitments?

That’s perhaps the biggest of the many questions left unanswered by this joint statement yesterday. Not only was there no mention of verification and inspection, but the two sides didn’t establish what denuclearization means. Asked about this yesterday, Trump said: “I think he wants to get it done. I really feel that very strongly.”

Apart from denuclearization, could you give a quick recap of what was agreed to at the summit and what we need to watch for in the coming months?

There are four main points of the joint statement:

  1. Establishing new U.S.-North Korea relations;
  2. Building a lasting and stable peace regime;
  3. Reaffirming North Korea’s commitment to “complete denuclearization”; and
  4. Repatriating American war dead.

There’s also Trump’s decision to suspend military exercises.

Did Trump or Kim say anything about the human rights record of North Korea? How will this rapprochement affect ordinary North Koreans?

This question led to some of the most interesting exchanges during Trump’s sprawling news conference after the signing with Kim. First, Trump acknowledged that human rights was not a major topic during the meeting, saying it “was discussed relatively briefly compared to denuclearization.” When pressed later about whether he had betrayed the political prisoners in North Korean gulags, Trump suggested that improving relations would help them.

Who made this summit possible? And why wasn’t the South Korean president invited?

A lot of people can claim credit for making the summit happen. Kim and Trump, obviously. But South Korean President Moon Jae-in played a key role in opening the dialogue and getting things back on track after Trump cancelled the meeting last month. China and Singapore also provided key logistical support.

Is this summit a game-changer for Asia and the rest of the world? Which countries have the most riding on a concrete peace deal?

Rather than a game-changer, this was more of a breakthrough in how the U.S. and North Korea talk to each other. Having open channels of communication can only minimize the risk of miscalculation. North Korea and South Korea have the most riding on a peace deal, but China, which is next door, is probably next in line.

What have observers been saying about the possibility of Trump (or Kim) getting a Nobel Peace Prize?

Moon says Trump deserves a Peace Prize. Others might say it’s Moon who is probably more deserving, since he was pushing Trump and Kim toward peace when they were still both threatening nuclear war. Still, others might say let’s wait until there’s an actual peace deal before we start doling out the accolades.

Why has it taken this long to get North Korea to the table? What’s the best-case and worst-case scenario we can hope for from the Trump-Kim commitment?

North Korea has resisted talks over the years because they disagreed with the U.S.’s preconditions — mainly, a clear commitment to an inspection-and-verification regime. However, they’ve long wanted a meeting with a U.S. president. Trump’s decision to meet Kim without that clear path to denuclearization removed the roadblock.

Best case scenario is the two sides start talking, North Korea decides the U.S. is no longer a threat and scales back its arsenal. Worst case is the U.S. decides North Korea isn’t cooperating and we go back to war threats.

After all those nuclear and missile tests, it seems like Kim Jong Un has suddenly signaled he wants peace. Why the change of strategy?

There is not enough known about North Korea to fully explain Kim’s motivations. But the North Koreans have expertly escalated and de-escalated tensions to suit their needs over the years. Now that Kim has a hydrogen bomb and missiles that can deliver it to the U.S., he says he doesn’t need to test them anymore and can dedicate more of his resources toward the economy.

Also, this has been a long time coming. Kim has put an increasing focus on developing his nation’s economy since he came to power in 2011.