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You may have read that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un used his grand summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang this week to make some new promises regarding his nuclear program. Kim now says he will allow foreign experts to watch as North Korea shuts down key missile facilities. Moon says Kim wants denuclearization soon and another meeting with Trump. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that, “on the basis of these important commitments" the US is "prepared to engage immediately in negotiations.”

Now read the fine print.

Kim suggested these and other actions will happen only if the US takes “reciprocal action.” But the US side has made clear that steps toward denuclearization must begin with foreign experts traveling throughout North Korea to create a comprehensive inventory of all nuclear and other weapons programs. US “reciprocal action” won’t amount to much until Kim takes this (highly unlikely) step.

That said, diplomacy is far from an impasse, mainly because everyone involved wants it to continue, even if they disagree about what that means. Donald Trump has staked considerable credibility on his relationship with Kim. North Korea’s strongman knows that diplomatic dialogue can delay the day when Trump will again threaten military action. South Korea’s Moon needs the popularity boost at home that comes with perceived progress. And Xi Jinping has enough to worry about without a return to threats of war.

For now, we can expect more summits, more handshakes, more promises, and little else.

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On Wednesday, Joe Biden will become president because eighty-one million Americans, the highest tally in US history, voted to change course after four years of Donald Trump's leadership. Like all presidents, Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, take office with grand ambitions and high expectations, but rarely has a new administration taken power amid so much domestic upheaval and global uncertainty. And while Biden has pledged repeatedly to restore American "unity" across party lines — at a time of immense suffering, real achievements will matter a lot more than winged words.

Biden has a lot on his agenda, but within his first 100 days as president there are three key issues that we'll be watching closely for clues to how effectively he's able to advance their plans.

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We're only a few weeks into 2021 and that 'fresh new start' that so many had been hoping for at the end of 2020 has not exactly materialized. But what gives World Bank President David Malpass hope for the coming year? "The promise of humanity and of technology, people working together with communication, where they can share ideas. It allows an incredible advance for living standards." His wide-ranging conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

It wasn't pretty, but we made it to Inauguration Day. These last four years have taught the US a lot about itself — so what have we learned?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and it is the last full day of the Trump administration. Extraordinary four years, unprecedented in so many ways. I guess the most important feature for me is how much more divided the United States is, the world is, as coming out of the Trump administration than it was coming in. Not new. We were in a GZERO world, as I called it well before Trump was elected president. The social contract was seen as fundamentally problematic. Many Americans believed their system was rigged, didn't want to play the kind of international leadership role that the United States had heretofore, but all of those things accelerated under Trump.

So perhaps the most important question to be answered is, once Trump is gone, how much of that persists? It is certainly true that a President Biden is much more oriented towards trying to bring the United States back into existing multilateral architecture, whether that be the Paris Climate Accord, or more normalized immigration discussions with the Mexicans, the World Health Organization, the Iranian Nuclear Deal, some of which will be easy to do, like Paris, some of which will be very challenging, like Iran. But nonetheless, all sounds like business as usual.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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