South Korean government officials travelled to Pyongyang and met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time on Tuesday. Also present was Kim Jong Un’s wife, sister, and his own commission of representatives.
The goal of the South Korean delegation was to promote talks between the North and the United States. Over the weekend, President Trump said he was open to such discussions, but is only willing to do so after the North Koreans “denuke.” Kim Jong Un called the notion of his country’s nuclear disarmament “preposterous” and “nothing short of ridiculous.”
North Korea stated its initiative as the “firm will to vigorously advance” reunification of the two countries.
Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies told Fox News “It is significant these talks are happening. Kim Jong Un has hardly met anyone.” But he added that “they are apparently feeling the pinch of economic sanctions.”
Amid reports of those current sanctions being circumvented, links to Russia further complicate the situation. North Korea is accused of laundering coal through the country to Japan and South Korea, according to The Washington Post.
There are also links between North Korea’s chemical weapons program and Syria, via a report from The Associated Press. Prohibited shipments including an array of conventional weapons from North Korea funneled to Syria to the tune of 40 shipments previously unreported being tracked between 2012 and 2017, with Myanmar receiving banned ballistic missile systems in one exchange.
Although North Korea cancelled a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence at the last minute during the Winter Olympics, the country participated in the games under a “unified Korea” flag with US ally South Korea as a consolidated team. Fitzpatrick says their recent actions shouldn’t be minimized, because “it shows North Korea’s intention to initiate talks.”
During the Korean War, North Korea invaded South Korea, with the United States coming to the South’s aid. By the end of the conflict, borders were drawn between the two Korean nations, solidifying a communist North (with Russian ties) and a free South.
China has long been seen as North Korea’s greatest public ally, while 59 percent of South Koreans currently oppose any preemptive strike on their northern neighbors — which hasn’t been ruled out by President Trump. But China, too, has imposed strict import bans against North Korea, spelling out the possibility of further world isolation toward Kim Jon Un’s regime.
While China’s efforts to keep the peace with America have been made public through the implementation of trade restrictions with their country and North Korea, fears linger about tensions ultimately arising between the two economic giants.