It looks like the United States and North Korea are actually talking, which should not be altogether surprising; it is not clear how you could have a summit without sherpas. And it also looks like North Korea has in fact conceded that denuclearization is also on agenda, which is also not surprising. Talks that did not include the nuclear question were always a non-starter.
Much will now focus on what any framework agreement will look like given the short time frame. But in the interim, sanctions continue to operate—assuming China maintains its commitment to enforcing them. That in turn will depend on the negotiations track. Some, including most notably incoming National Security Advisor John Bolton, appear to think that such talks are a fool’s errand. President Trump apparently disagrees. But if the negotiations track falls apart, China’s commitment to maintaining the multilateral sanctions regime might as well. Much also hinges on the unspoken assumption that China will not take out its umbrage over recent sanctions by backing off its largely cooperative stance with respect to North Korea.
I discuss these issues in piece at the Monkey Cage published on April 6.