In a dramatic shift, Kim Jong Un has reportedly expressed a willingness to discuss denuclearization with the United States, according to a statement released by South Korea’s presidential Blue House.

Chairman Kim said that even denuclearization could be among the agenda items for talks between North Korea and the US,” a Blue House spokesman said,as reported by the South Korean news agency Yonhap. “What drew our attention, in particular, is that he made clear that achieving denuclearization is his father’s dying wish and that it has not been changed at all.”

This line of dialogue, of course, marks a significant departure from years of nuclear rhetoric from Kim’s regime. On multiple occasions, official statements from the ruling party of North Korea have bore a stronger resemblance to professional wrestling than formal diplomacy, threatening dramatic and destructive displays of Kim’s nuclear might and calling the nation’s nuclear future “non negotiable.” Now, at least according to Moon Jae In’s office,  Kim claims that his dream has always been for a non-nuclear North Korea, and further, has asked for no-preconditions before initiating these talks.

Kim also didn’t specify anything special from South Korea or other countries in return for the North coming to dialogue but expressed an intent to be treated seriously as a counterpart for talks,” the statement added.

Since assuming power in 2011 following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, the younger Kim has made the development of nuclear weapons and advanced ballistic missile platforms a priority – even going so far as to have his nuclear aspirations added to the nation’s constitution. Many experts have asserted that Kim’s intent has not been to engage in nuclear war, however, but rather to enter into a new era of interaction with the outside world, leveraging his nuclear arsenal to better manage foreign relationships.

However, increasingly strict sanctions implemented by the United States and United Nations have strangled the North Korean economy. A significant uptick in defection from North Korea’s military has seemingly demonstrated worsening condition for Kim’s troops, and an influx of North Korean fishermen and boats washing up on Japanese shores would seem to indicate that food shortages within the reclusive state have pushed the populous to take increasingly dangerous chances in pursuit of a better catch. Notably, last year North Korea halted ballistic missile testing during the nation’s harvest season, in order to maximize the resources allocated to the effort.

South Korean president says NK's nukes too far along to destroy quickly

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It would seem that it is possible, then, than Kim may be seeking a means by which to end the financial strangulation imposed by these sanctions, and the United States has made it clear time and time again that nothing short of total denuclearization would meet their criteria to do so. The question for Kim, however, must be how to go about yielding to foreign pressure without compromising the image he cultivates as an infallible leader.

The answer, it would seem, has been a part of North Korea’s PR campaign throughout much of the last year. While the United States began pressuring Kim’s regime to denuclearlize because of their direct threats to the safety of America and its allies, Kim’s rhetoric in recent months has shifted to suggesting that their behavior is a response to American aggression, rather than the catalyst initiating it. By painting the U.S. as the aggressor, Kim may have hoped to elicit more international support. Failing that, he can now play the role of embattled leader simply trying to hold of the tide of foreign aggression.

The North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed,” Chung Eui-yong, the director of South Korea’s National Security Office, who attended the latest meetings between officals from North and South Korea, said, according to Yonhap.

“In addition, the North promised not to use not only nuclear weapons but also conventional weapons against the South,” he added.

The U.S State Department has not yet made any official statements regarding South Korea’s announcement, though President Trump did take to Twitter to weigh in.

Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!” He said.

Image courtesy of the Associated Press