Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Hanoi for the second summit between the two leaders. Despite high expectations leading into the meeting, the summit ended early with no agreement toward denuclearization. With that in mind, we asked our panel of foreign policy experts: 

Should the US continue to focus first and foremost on the fully verifiable denuclearization of North Korea, or should it instead shift the primary focus now to arms limitation and non-proliferation?


said the US should continue to focus on the fully verifiable denuclearization of North Korea


Some experts believed denuclearization was still a viable long-term goal, but pursuing it should not preclude intermediate steps aimed at arms control and reduction.


said the US should shift focus to arms limitation and non-proliferation


Others maintained that denuclearization was an unrealistic goal, and that the US should instead focus on achievable incremental progress with North Korea.


provided only written responses and fall into an 'other (vol.)' category


Why keep focus on denuclearization?

“There are no benefits to unilaterally reducing our demands. Best to keep the standards high, and consider less maximalist demands in exchange for something.”

- Oriana Skylar Mastro, assistant professor, Georgetown University

“The Trump Administration has tested the theory that jumping to the leader-to-leader level without adequate staff might produce surprisingly positive results. We now know that it won't. What we don't know, however, is how far the two sides can go with a more realistic commitment to doing the hard spade work at the staff level.”

- Peter Feaver, professor, Duke University

“Accepting North Korea as a nuclear state may be inevitable. The best way to limit the size and scope of that program is to push for complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”

- James Lindsay, senior vice president, director of studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Why shift focus to arms control?

“North Korea has no incentive to give up its nuclear weapons. . . . [T]he Kim regime believes (with good reason) that those weapons are its primary deterrent against a regime change effort by the U.S. or any other state. It is therefore a waste of resources to try to come up with ever more creative ways to gain denuclearization. . . .”

- Kimberly Marten, department chair and professor, Barnard College, Columbia University

“Denuclearization is an end point that both have broadly agreed to. Trust building and many incremental steps are required to make it there. Requiring denuclearization first, and giving it such significance, repeats the mistakes of the past and fails to understand North Korea's security problematic.”

- Bridget Coggins, associate professor, University of California

“The two issues are related. That said, between North Korea's existing nuclear stockpile and the dangers of nuclear arms races and the expansion of the number of countries developing weapons of mass destruction, the latter issue is more important. ”

- Dan Drezner, professor, The Fletcher School of Tufts University

Why other?

“It should not focus on the nuclear issue at all. Seek to normalize N[orth] K[orea] (with aid of S[outh] K[orea]) and worry about nukes later. ”

- John Mueller, political scientist; senior fellow, Ohio State; Cato Institute

“A better stance would be to work with regional allies to achieve a deterrent posture that could minimize the effect of North Korean nuclear weapons on the regional balance and regional politics. ”

- Jeremy Shapiro, research director, European Council on Foreign Relations

“Neither of the above. North Korea has no intention of denuclearizing. The US must build a strong counterweight to Kim.”

- Thomas Wright, director, Brookings Institution