Hours after photos of vigorous handshakes and awkward smiles between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump was sent out across the globe from their summit in Singapore, China officially suggested that the sanctions may now be removed gradually, pending discussions.
On his preparation for the summit, Trump was equally confusing saying in one breath he's very well prepared for it - but in the next declaring "I don't think I have to prepare very much".
Why does it matter?
China is already North Korea's most important ally and biggest trade partner. For China, that raises the uncomfortable spectre of American troops on China's doorstep, erasing North Korea's traditional role as a buffer. Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander Keith Harman said that - although these talks were primarily about denuclearization - Korean War vets and their families were hoping this issue would also come up, and it has. The next drills were planned for late August. Denuclearisation would ensure peace and stability in the region but a closer relationship between North Korea and the United States could pose a threat.
This seems familiar. A similar bargain was struck back in 1992 when North Korea allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its nuclear facilities while the US paused joint military exercises with South Korea.
By March this year, China imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea for a sixth month in a row, in line with U.N. Security Council sanctions. Experts say China's ideal outcome is a "soft landing" that entails a denuclearized Pyongyang pursuing meaningful, long-term reforms.
Trump also called the war games "provocative" and "inappropriate", echoing language both Beijing and Pyongyang have used to characterise the annual war games that have been conducted for decades.
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"Trump meeting Kim is a huge risk from China's perspective. In the short term, it can likely count this as a win".
According to the Washington Post, between 1996 and 2005, joint search teams recovered 229 sets of American remains in North Korea, but then tensions between the two countries escalated.
"Kim is talking to Trump because he needs to get the United States to back off sanctions". It's an illustration that ...
As the Sydney Morning Herald detailed, in North Korea, "an estimated 100,000 political prisoners are held in fetid gulag-style prisons, "re-education" camps and forced-labour centers".
"They have great beaches".
Mr Trump said he had formed a "special bond" with Mr Kim, who said he and Mr Trump had "decided to leave the past behind".
President Donald Trump's announcement Tuesday of the suspension of joint military exercises with South Korea appeared to catch U.S. Forces-Korea and members of his own party by surprise, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was consulted beforehand.