Can North Korea, US grab chance for talk?
As of Wednesday afternoon, about 24 hours after Seoul announced the above, North Korea has still not confirmed the South’s version of events. North Korea’s official daily Rodong Sinmun published an article on Wednesday noting the country will advance the parallel development of the economy and nuclear weaponry.
It seems that Pyongyang is awaiting Washington’s positive response. If North Korea shows enthusiasm while the US adopts an indifferent attitude, Pyongyang will be at a disadvantage at the negotiating table.
US President Donald Trump is now less tough on the issue. He seems to be watching for what Pyongyang does next.
The relaxed relationship between North and South Korea has created a rare opportunity for all sides to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. But it won’t be easy to turn the tables on the peninsula. Promoting negotiations will be harder than decades ago when the Six-Party Talks first started.
Both the US and North Korea are more confident nowadays. Trump attributes Pyongyang’s overture to sanctions and believes piling maximum pressure on North Korea is the only way that can work. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un thinks Pyongyang now has more bargaining chips at the negotiating table thanks to nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles.
Pyongyang and Washington are also more distrustful of each other today than back during those Six-Party Talks. The US thinks North Korea is returning to the negotiating table to buy time and reduce sanctions pressure. Pyongyang has been stressing that Washington failed to keep its promises from the last such agreement. When the Six-Party Talks resumed in 2006, China-North Korea relations were sound, but they are now at a low ebb.
Previous negotiations aimed to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear activities while North Korea itself had no faith in whether it could produce long-range missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Now North Korea is believed to have them, it will be more difficult to make the country abandon them.
The possibility of resolving the conundrum is not zero. Nuclear weapons are of no use for improving the living standards of the North Korean people. Since Pyongyang has no need to play strategic games as a major power, it does not need to make nuclear weapons its standard configuration. The North Korean nuclear crisis was caused by its special geopolitical environment. As long as the country’s sense of crisis over its national and institutional security can be eliminated, denuclearization can theoretically be negotiated.
Negotiations must be aimed at both sides’ common interests and a solution that is better than confrontation. Every side hopes to maximize its interest, but in the end, they will need to compromise. What Washington and Pyongyang need is sobriety and a clear mind.