North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he is ready to sit down with South Korea to discuss an easing of tensions.
With the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang just a month away, South Korea has eagerly reciprocated interest in diplomatic talks.
But is there any chance of lasting improvement in North Korea’s behavior or relationships with the rest of the world?
President Donald Trump seems skeptical that anything will come from the talks, tweeting “Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not — we will see!”
South Korean unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon suggested a meeting as early as next Tuesday to discuss Olympic cooperation, a shared border village, and overall relations between the two countries.
The State Department, as well as former national security officials and other experts believe this could just be Kim trying to cause division between South Korea and the United States.
Because South Korean President Moon Jae-in is so worried about the Olympics going well, it's possible Kim is taking advantage in an attempt to lessen sanctions against his nation.
Daniel Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said “Pyongyang’s pattern is to raise tensions to a fever pitch, dangle a conciliatory offer, collect any and all concessions, then rinse and repeat.”
A potential result of these talks could be North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics, something Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and others do not support.
“Allowing Kim Jong Un’s North Korea to participate in #WinterOlympics would give legitimacy to the most illegitimate regime on the planet,” Graham tweeted. “I'm confident South Korea will reject this absurd overture and fully believe that if North Korea goes to the Winter Olympics, we do not.”
So, while the U.S. supports South Korea’s right to enter into talks with North Korea, there is very little expectation that any lasting benefit will come from them. After all, in the same New Year's Day speech, Kim bragged about having a nuclear button on his desk and weapons capable of reaching the U.S. if threatened.
(H/T The Washington Post)