On Wednesday, when Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump shook hands before the world’s cameras in Singapore a year ago, they pledged change and progress. But now they are gripped by diplomatic recriminations after a failed second meeting in Hanoi.
In Singapore, the first-ever summit between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, Kim signed a vaguely-worded deal on denuclearisation, touted by Trump as a historic breakthrough.
But a second meeting in Vietnam in February ended abruptly, without even a scheduled lunch, after the two failed to agree on what the North would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
“Immediately after the Singapore summit, we had a tidal wave of completely unrealistic, almost comical expectations,” said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul.
“Then it became clear what has been obvious, the North Koreans are not going to surrender nuclear weapons,” Lankov told AFP.
Since Hanoi, Pyongyang has accused Washington of acting in “bad faith” and given it until the end of the year to change its approach.
“We have gone from what felt like a spirit of hope and optimism to now a clear path of uncertainty,” said Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest.