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Trump and Kim fly home but U.S.-North Korea negotiations far from over

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is about to begin a busy round of post-summit meetings in South Korea and China.
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The headline acts may have departed the stage but there's still plenty of activity in the wings.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un returned home Wednesday, with commentators left to debate the merits of their unprecedented summit in Singapore.

For Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, his work in the region isn't over.

On Wednesday, he flew to the South Korean capital of Seoul for meetings with Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

One of the unexpected outcomes of the talks was Trump's revelation that he had agreed to pause joint military exercises with South Korea.

This appeared to blindside both the Pentagon and South Korea's military, and was criticized by some experts as giving away a huge concession for little in return.

In Japan, which has seen North Korean missile tests fly over its territory, the prospect was met with concern.

"The U.S.-South Korea joint exercises and U.S. forces in South Korea play significant roles for the security in East Asia," Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

In Seoul, Pompeo will meet with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kon, before flying to Beijing to brief the Chinese government.

With the world watching, Trump and Kim signed an agreement Tuesday that billed itself as "an epochal event of great significance."

It said Kim's regime had agreed "to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" — echoing the same promises the North has made several times before.

Back in Pyongyang, Kim returned to a rapturous reception from his state-run media, which — like almost all other aspects of public life in the isolated state — is tightly controlled by the young dictator's regime.

The Korean Central News Agency portrayed the summit as one of normalizing relations between Kim and the U.S. The word "denuclearization" was mentioned only twice, and lower down in the 1,300-word report.

Trump's reviewers haven't been so unanimous.

Skeptics criticized the president for giving too much away for too little, all the while legitimizing and even praising one of the world's most brutal dictators.

Others said the summit was the promising, symbolic start of a long process, and preferable to last year's nadir that saw the two countries trade threats of nuclear war.