North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a historic meeting in April. (AP: Korea Summit Press Pool)
A historic meeting with the South, halting long-range missile tests and now the release of three American prisoners.
What’s Kim Jong-un up to?
While the US is celebrating the string of diplomatic victories, the North Korean leader is setting himself up for his historic meeting with US President Donald Trump, who will be expected to give something in return.
But what might that be?
In the first instance, it may well be the mere presence of the US President at such talks which will give global legitimacy to the North Korean leader who craves respect.
The leader of the hermit kingdom has been collecting photo opportunities with world leaders like fridge magnets in recent months following talks with President Xi Jinping, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and now two meetings with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
However, a seat at the table with Mr Trump would be the ultimate prize — a sign Kim Jong-un and his regime is respected around the world, and also that North Korea is a nuclear player.
Its latest missile test was on November 28, when the flight of a Hwasong-15 missile gave the world pause amid real concern North Korea could feasibly strike the continental US.
Two months later, North Korea announced it would send athletes to the Winter Olympics in neighbouring South Korea and so began the charm offensive of 2018.
So why are we here now?
The Trump administration has put the squeeze on North Korea, tightening sanctions and exerting pressure on others, like China, to enforce them.
Maritime smuggling has been targeted to reduce the supply of oil and trade in coal, a key income source.
The US has also cracked down on the funding sources for North Korea’s weapons programs.
There’s also the “fire and fury” threatened by Mr Trump in response to North Korean nuclear tests which is now, it seems, producing tangible results.
Today the White House said the President viewed the decision to release the American prisoners as a “positive gesture and a step in the right direction”.
However, “total denuclearisation will remain the top priority”.
There’s no suggestion, yet, that North Korea will be offered sanctions relief in return for its recent concessions, although it will certainly come up at any talks.
The US, and indeed Australia, will be looking for actual progress amid continuing suspicion about Mr Kim’s motives.
Mr Trump says the time, date and location for the summit has been decided and will be revealed in the next three days.