The encounter between US president Donald Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday started with a grand handshake and ended with a detail-free agreement, deflating hopes of a historic breakthrough.

The summit was difficult to process, perhaps because it was not like other dramatic encounters between adversaries – such as those between US president Richard Nixon and China’s Mao Zedong, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin, or South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk – in which the meeting signified an advance.

The twelve-second handshake between Trump and Kim was fascinating to watch, but its meaning remains unclear. Trump, rather than pursue a deal to end North Korea’s nuclear program and cap it off with a meeting, chose to start with a summit that may come to nothing …

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