Earlier this summer, South Korea elected President Moon Jae-in, an outspoken advocate of diplomacy with North Korea. This was immediately viewed with some suspicion among US officials, who were already downplaying the idea of diplomacy as an approach.
Soaring tensions between the US and North Korea have seen President Trump rebuking Moon, accusing him of a policy of “appeasement.” Internally, President Moon is also facing calls to “get tough” on North Korea.
Moon had tried to placate the US by offering conditions on talks, including warning that talks would be impossible if a nuclear test occurred. Now that the test has happened, Moon risks having hemmed himself into that position.
Any return to the Sunshine policy was always going to be difficult to pull off amid this tension. Now, while Moon remains popular, he doesn’t appear to have everybody on board with his North Korea policy.