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THE sun smiled down on the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas on April 27th, the day Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, met Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, for a strikingly warm summit at which they agreed on the “complete denuclearisation” of the peninsula. On May 16th the weather was very different, and so was the news. Thunderstorms battered Seoul as the North announced that it was cancelling high-level talks with the South to which it had agreed barely 24 hours earlier. It also threatened to pull out of a summit between Mr Kim and Donald Trump, America’s president, scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12th.

The North gave two reasons for its ire: long-scheduled military exercises between America and South Korea, to which it had previously acquiesced (although it may have been surprised by the involvement of stealth fighters, which could be used in a “decapitation”…

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