US President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time at a historic summit in Singapore on June 12 last year and there have been ups and downs in the North’s foreign relations since then.
Progress has been made, such as the return of some remains of American soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. But even that has stalled since the second summit between Trump and Kim broke down in Vietnam in February.
The two sides now appear as far apart as they were going into the Singapore summit.
North Korea has conducted short-range missile tests and complained of US pressure, while the United States has doubled down on its enforcement of sanctions on North Korea. Here are some of the major events since Kim and Trump shook hands a year ago.
Words but no action on denuclearisation
Trump and Kim agreed in Singapore to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Kim also vowed to permanently dismantle key missile facilities in the presence of international inspectors, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said after his third summit with Kim in September in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
Moon also said Kim would take additional steps toward denuclearisation such as closing its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, if the United States took reciprocal measures.
But none of those pledges has materialised, and US think tanks have pointed to activity at North Korea’s nuclear and missile sites, including the restoration of part of the rocket launch station that it had just begun to shut down.
Kim’s summit diplomacy
Kim’s journey from international pariah to acceptance as a responsible head of state accelerated after the Singapore summit. He made two trips to China, for his third and fourth summits with President Xi Jinping. He also visited the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok last April to meet President Vladimir Putin.
In September, Kim hosted Moon for their third summit in 2018, in Pyongyang, which was partly aimed at facilitating Kim’s second encounter with Trump in February in the Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.
In Hanoi, Kim established a rapport with Vietnamese officials, as he did with Singapore officials when he visited there for the first summit with Trump.
Stalemate in US ties
In July, North Korea repatriated 55 boxes of what were believed to be the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War, a quick first step toward the Singapore pledge to forge “new relations”.
But that same month, North Korea accused US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of making “gangster-like” demands during a visit to Pyongyang.
Trump cancelled a subsequent trip by Pompeo set for August. In October, Pompeo made his fourth visit to North Korea in 2018 and hailed “significant progress”. A visit to the United States by Kim’s top envoy, Kim Yong Chol, initially scheduled for November, was postponed to January.
North Korea freed a detained American in November in an apparent goodwill gesture.
In February, Kim and Trump held their second summit, in Hanoi, which collapsed over the gulf between US demands for denuclearisation and North Korea’s for sanctions relief.
Negotiations have since stalled, with North Korea setting a year-end deadline for the United States to show more flexibility.
Relations between the two Koreas made rapid progress in 2018 with Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in holding three summits.
They agreed to a military pact with measures to ease tension during the third meeting, in September. They have implemented some steps, halting major military exercises, establishing a no-fly zone along the border and removing landmines and guard posts in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). They also opened a liaison office in the North’s border city of Kaesong in September.
But the standoff between the North and the United States this year has cast a chill over inter-Korean relations.
North Korea snubbed a South Korean offer of follow-up action. The North briefly pulled out of the liaison office where planned weekly talks have not taken place since the failed North Korean-US summit in February.
In Singapore, Trump made a surprise announcement that the United States would suspend military drills with South Korea. Major exercises, which North Korea has long seen as a rehearsal for war, have been halted though smaller ones have continued.
Serious about sanctions
The Trump administration has intensified its enforcement of sanctions in line with a campaign of “maximum pressure” on the North.
Last month, the United States announced for the first time it had seized a North Korean cargo ship, accusing it of illicit coal shipments in violation of US and U.N. sanctions. North Korea called it an illegal act that violated the spirit of the Singapore summit.
Strict US interpretations of U.N. sanctions curtailing banking and shipping transactions with Pyongyang, as well as a travel ban for US citizens, have effectively shut North Korean operations by many relief groups.
New missile tests
In May, North Korea twice tested multiple short-range missiles, which analysts said could be aimed at penetrating South Korea’s missile defence system.
Trump said nobody was happy about the launches but left the door open for more talks, saying they were not a violation of the Singapore agreement.
South Korea also played down the tests, with Moon calling them a protest against the failed Vietnam summit and a sign the North wanted to negotiate.