Both President Donald Trump and senior representatives from North Korea have expressed interest in beginning high level diplomatic talks brokered by South Korean President Moon Jae In, but thus far, interest is as far as the effort has gotten.

“They want to talk. We want to talk also, only under the right conditions. Otherwise we’re not talking,” Trump said during a meeting with state governors at the White House this week. “We’ll see what happens. That’s my attitude, we’ll see what happens.”

Significant hurdles remain before U.S. State Department officials can sit across the table from representative from Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime, one of the biggest being the very intent of the meeting. The United States has repeatedly stated that they would only enter into discussions with North Korea with the intent of pursuing a complete denuclearization of the country – something Kim and his regime have stated time and time again that they are not willing to discuss.

Any dialogue with #NorthKorea must result in complete, verifiable, & irreversible denuclearization of Korean Peninsula.” Heather Nuart, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said on Twitter on Monday.

“The maximum pressure campaign must continue. We will make clear that #DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end.”

This approach, however, has drawn some light criticism from South Korean President Moon Jae In, who seems to be taking the approach that talks aimed at reducing tensions in the region, even if under less direct pretense than denuclearization, could be beneficial. That stance, of course, is to be expected, as Moon’s nation of South Korea stands to lose a great deal more than the United States likely would if conventional warfare were to break out between the U.S. and their neighbors to the North.

There is a need for the United States to lower the threshold for talks with North Korea, and North Korea should show it is willing to denuclearize. It’s important the United States and North Korea sit down together quickly,” Moon said, according to a statement from his office.

North Korean artillery assets alone have been projected to lay waste to South Korea’s capital city of Seoul before allied air assets would be able to neutralize them in an open warfare scenario. North Korea’s stockpile of chemical and biological weapons would also likely be employed against U.S. and South Korean troops at the border. That, of course, isn’t a worst case scenario, as missile defense systems in place could potentially neutralize outgoing ICBMs headed for Japan or the United States, but may struggle to intercept smaller, medium and short range ballistic, and potentially nuclear, missiles headed into South Korea.

The White House and U.S. Treasury released another round of sanctions against vessels and entities accused of helping North Korea circumvent internationally established restrictions on the nation’s imports and exports on Friday, potentially prompting the North’s willingness to talk. However, as President Trump recently pointed out, Kim’s regime has been seeing increased support from nearby Russia, potentially hindering the denuclearization effort, and progress toward talks, as well. Russian president Vladimir Putin has been on record as saying he believes the sanctions against Kim’s regime should end, though his nation has not exercised veto authority over UN sanctions imposed on North Korea thus far.

China’s been good but they haven’t been great,“ the president said. “China has really done more probably than they’ve ever done because of my relationship – we have a very good relationship. We have a very good relationship. But President Xi is for China and I‘m for the United States.”

“And Russia is behaving badly because Russia is sending in what China is taking out. So China’s doing pretty good numbers, but Russia is now sending a lot of stuff. But I think they want to see it come to an end also, I think everybody does.”

It seems likely that, at some point in the future, North Korea and the United States will meet at the same table. The biggest obstacle may not be Russia’s support, or even disagreement about the stakes… it may well be finding a way to put both parties in the same room without making either appear to yield to the pressure of the other.

 

Image courtesy of the Associated Press

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