Seoul: US-North Korea talks may precede inter-Korean dialogue in April

Patrice Gainsbourg
Março 10, 2018

North Korea's willingness to hold a "candid dialogue" with the United States to discuss denuclearization and establish diplomatic relations follows a year of increased fears of war on the Korean Peninsula, with Kim and Trump exchanging fiery rhetoric and crude insults over Kim's barrage of weapons tests. Eagles fly with doves. But given the North's long history of broken promises on a nuclear program that now threatens the U.S. mainland, it wasn't surprising that Trump hedged.

That sounds pretty good. She says diplomatically, the U.S. has a thin bench.

But the administration will have difficult questions of its own as it gauges North Korea's intentions.

Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, was killed Feb. 13, 2017, with VX, a deadly nerve agent used in prohibited chemical weapons of mass destruction that North Korea is known to have stockpiled.

According to a statement released by Seoul, North Korea indicated "willingness to denuclearise" if the military threat to it was "eliminated" and its security assured.

Christopher Hill, a Bowdoin College-educated U.S. ambassador who led North Korea negotiations in George W. Bush's second term, made this argument powerfully last June.

Moon and Kim both have said they want to use an opening created by the North's participation in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, last month to improve inter-Korean ties.

Former officials in Washington and Tokyo reacted with scepticism to the North's offer of talks on denuclearization, seeing a familiar pattern of threats followed by talks that fail to win significant concessions.

It turned out to be a ruse. "That's the part that we're waiting to potentially hear about, if that becomes a basis that's sufficient for the US side to move forward in terms of talks".

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After the Soviet Union - North Korea's principal backer - disintegrated in 1991, the leadership in Pyongyang has felt the need to do more to secure itself against its enemies.

So what is Kim really after here? Consider the interests of the South Koreans.

Moon, of course, is no political novice. He said he could not adequately assess the South's account of the Pyongyang talks until the South Koreans have provided a full briefing.

"Kim Jong-un has a certain message, which is not publicised to be delivered directly to the Trump administration". I think there's a very symbolic significance that goes with this meeting.

North Korea's sense of insecurity only got worse when the former US president George Bush called North Korea one of the three states - Iran and Iraq being the other two - that forms the "axis of evil".

Leaders around the world have met the apparent breakthrough with guarded optimism, wary of repeating past negotiations that failed to prevent Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said any sanctions which were imposed unilaterally and not under the auspices of the United Nations were illegitimate. So they should stop - just at least halt their program where it is right now. If Pyongyang overreacts to these maneuvers, that tells us something. It could also simply be an effort to buy time while the Kim regime figures out how to protect the nuclear advances it has made and develop more nuclear-capable weapons in the future.

The South Korean expert stressed that verbal commitment from North Korea toward denuclearization is probably not enough to convince the United States to come to the negotiation table.

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