After a two year long hostile silence between North and South Korea, there is some breakthrough of diplomacy for the two countries that once used to be one. North Korea (NK) has agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea and to hold talks with Seoul to ease military tensions on the peninsula. This comes after some other positive signs; Pyongyang reopened a long-closed border hotline with South Korea, Seoul proposed bilateral negotiations, and at the start of the New Year, Kim Jong Un said in his address that he was open to speaking with the South.
Most notable about this development is the exclusion of the United States, which has always played the part of the overlooking mediator in the relations of the Korean peninsula. It is clear, after Trump’s shouting twitter matches with Kim Jong Un, that a breakthrough with NK will not be approved by the US, with UN ambassador Nikki Haley commenting that no talks would be taken seriously without a ban on nuclear weapons for NK. What the US fails to realise is that the Trumpian model of foreign policy, a bullying all-sticks-no-carrots approach which sees diplomacy as a waste of time, is being rejected by the rest of the world, and that it is losing its mediator status. History shows that diplomacy works, especially with volatile countries like NK, which often responds to aggressiveness with further threats.
However, as with all things NK, we take this potential reconciliation with a pinch of salt. NK has used past diplomacy efforts to overplay its hand, asking for excessive concessions, without foregoing any percent of its nuclear program. For the meantime, the South has adopted the best policy with NK-being on its toes, but not taking the unpredictable leader and his wild claims seriously. For now, it is a hopeful step for 2018.