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North Korea sends clear message: Problem not with “brethren” South Korea, but with just one man

South Korean President Moon: “I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks”

Reuters reports that South Korean President Moon Jae-in credited U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday for helping to spark the first inter-Korean talks in more than two years, and warned that Pyongyang would face stronger sanctions if provocations continued.

Moon told reporters at his New Year’s news conference…

“I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks, I want to show my gratitude.”

“It could be a resulting work of the U.S.-led sanctions and pressure.”

The talks between North and South Korea took place after a prolonged period of tension on the Korean peninsula over the North’s missile and nuclear programs.

According to Reuters, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed at Tuesday’s talks, the first since December 2015, to resolve all problems between them through dialogue and also to revive military consultations so that accidental conflict could be averted.

Pyongyang’s chief negotiator, Ri Son Gwon, stated..

“All our weapons including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia.” 

Zerohedge reports that it appears any attempts to ameliorate tensions hit a sudden hurdle when the United States is brought into the equation. Case in point, as Reuters reports, North Korea said that it would not discuss its nuclear weapons with Seoul because they were aimed only at the United States, not its “brethren” in South Korea.

Head of the North Korean delegation, Ri Son Gwon shakes hands with his
South Korean counterpart Cho Myoung-gyon

While disarmament was not on the agenda, more diplomacy was: in a joint statement after 11 hours of talks North Korea pledged to send a large delegation to next month’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea but made a “strong complaint” after Seoul proposed talks to denuclearise the Korean peninsula

Meanwhile, North Korea was clear that its beef is not with South Korea, but with just one person: Donald Trump.

“This is not a matter between North and South Korea, and to bring up this issue would cause negative consequences and risks turning all of today’s good achievement into nothing,” Ri, chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, warned in closing remarks.

Meanwhile the WSJ leaked information that the Trump administration, and especially the generals in it, were advocating a “bloody nose” approach to a military conflict with North Korea, effectively a surgical strike which would most likely take out Kim himself.

Zerohedge reports…

Desperate to stay relevant, and part of the process, a spokesperson for the White House’s national Security Council said North Korean participation in the Olympics would be “an opportunity for the regime to see the value of ending its international isolation by denuclearising.” Not surprisingly, the US initially responded coolly to the idea of inter-Korean meetings, but Trump later called them “a good thing” and said he would be willing to speak to Kim.

“At the appropriate time, we’ll get involved,” Trump said on Saturday, although U.S.-North Korean talks appear unlikely, given entrenched positions on both sides. Also, in keeping with the party line, the US insists that any future talks must have the aim of denuclearization, and the North-South thaw has not altered the U.S. intelligence assessment of North Korea’s weapons programs.

From a game theoretical standpoint, the Nash (dys)equilibrium between the US and N.Korea looks roughly as follows (via Reuters):

“The consensus, according to five U.S. officials familiar with the classified analysis, is that Kim remains convinced the United States is determined to overthrow him and that only a nuclear arsenal that threatens America can deter that.

One of the officials said the North-South talks were likely to follow the pattern of past diplomatic efforts, in which the North has benefited from additional food and other aid without making any concessions on the weapons front.

The additional danger now, said a second official, was that Kim would seek to use the talks to take advantage of Trump’s sometimes bellicose rhetoric to try to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.”

For now, South Korea is much more receptive to the North’s overtures. Still, in spite of the North Korean negotiator’s remarks, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it believed Tuesday’s talks could lead to discussion of a “fundamental resolution” of the nuclear issue.

“We will closely coordinate with the United States, China, Japan and other neighbours in this process,” it said, adding that Seoul had asked North Korea to halt acts that stoke tension.


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