US President Donald Trump called the declaration signed at end of the summit with Kim Jong-un “comprehensive” but it only contained four generalised main points and was very light on detail.
It was more of a statement of intent on denuclearisation, and a commitment to a “lasting and stable peace” with unspecified “security guarantees” to the North Korean leader.
In a press conference at the end of the summit, Mr Trump seemed convinced that “it would be complete denuclearisation and would be verified as soon as possible,” and that his deal is very different to any other.
He asserted “it was a bold step to a bright new future” and “only the most courageous can make peace”.
Surely the sentiment was there, but it didn’t answer many of the concerns or provide the substance of how denuclearisation, stability and peace might be achieved for the region.
At this early stage China is a clear winner.
For the last year the middle kingdom has been calling for “a suspension for a suspension” and in one of the few concrete measures that’s exactly what Mr Trump conceded.
He said all joint US and South Korean war games would cease, to match a freeze of North Korean nuclear and missile tests.
It’s a signal to China that their demands are being met and raises hopes that China’s strategic interests can further be served.
In the coming rounds of meetings and negotiations China will push for at the very least a ‘redefinition’ of the 28,000 US troops in South Korea to ‘peacekeepers’.
Mr Trump himself said he eventually wants the troops to come home.
This is a golden opportunity for China to consolidate its ambitions of dominance in Asia.
The American troop presence in South Korea — with their massive bases — are the biggest projection of US power into the region. With a dilution of that China stands to gain.
Understanding North Korea
It could represent the first opening for China that sees itself surrounded by US bases in South Korea, Japan, Guam and Philippines.
China’s relationship with North Korea, regardless of what is to happen between the US and North Korea, has been repaired.
So for Mr Trump to return to ‘maximum pressure’ with sanctions will prove very difficult.
China provides 90 per cent of trade to North Korea and sanctions have only really worked because China turned the screws over the last year on coal, iron-ore, seafood and North Korean labour.
China is already lining up to take advantage of any opening up of North Korea and it is well positioned to do so.
Already three massive industrial/free trade zone areas exist on its border with North Korea and large infrastructure projects like new bridges are ready to go.
China wants to take advantage of the North Korean labour, which will be among the cheapest in the world.
It also want to use deeper economic ties to boost the sluggish economic growth in its north eastern provinces.
So it was no surprise that China’s Foreign Ministry called for sanctions to be eased soon after the signing to the joint declaration in Singapore.
South Korea probably has the most to lose and most to gain out of a peace treaty and denuclearisation.
For 65 years South Koreans have lived with the ever present threat from the North and an estimated 8,000 artillery pieces pointed at its capital Seoul.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the son of North Korean refugees, has staked his presidency on bringing peace to the Peninsula.
After the summit he congratulated Mr Trump and Mr Kim, calling it “an historic event that will end the last remaining conflict of the Cold War and write a new history of peace and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula”.
While there is great optimism in South Korea, many are still haunted by the ghosts of failed peace talks that are light on detail and concrete commitment.
What’s more, as Mr Trump reiterated, South Korea will have to pay for its peace and reconstruction of the North and that’s a massive bill in order of perhaps a trillion dollars, that many are wary of paying.
And last but not least is Japan, which has felt sidelined by the whole process.
Japan has faced the stark reality of having North Korean missiles being lobbed over their territory in the past year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s last minute dash to Washington to see Mr Trump last week was an attempt to make sure Japan’s interest could be heard.
While it is feasible that Mr Kim might give up his ICBM’s (Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles) that could hit American cities if economic concessions follow, giving up the medium or short term missiles in Japan’s range might not be so easy to put on the agenda.
Mr Kim may not be so ready to give up that regional strategic advantage.
Also the Japanese fear the fate of their citizens kidnapped by North Korea — a hugely emotional issue — could be lost in negotiations to come.
Japan, China and South Korea all value the new direction set by the Trump-Kim summit but the different and sometimes competing needs and strategies of each country could present potential stumbling blocs in the coming months and years as they have done in past negotiations.
By Matthew Carney