New South Korean President Moon Jae-in has made clear he wants to get reconciliation talks going with North Korea, and took a bit of a shot at US sanctions pushes in comments yesterday, saying he thinks sanctions should only be considered as a tool to get North Korea to the table for talks.
The Trump Administration has insisted in recent weeks they consider diplomacy to have “failed,” and President Trump appeared very dismissive of the new push for diplomacy today, saying he would only accept discussion with North Korea “under certain circumstances.”
Trump didn’t make clear what those circumstances would be, naturally, but did appear to reject the need for talks in the near term, bragging that he’s handling North Korea “very well, very firmly” without diplomacy. The State Department added that they want North Korea to “cease all illegal activities” for the possibility of talks.
These comments of course are deliberately vague while being deliberately unattainable, underscoring the Trump Administration aversion to diplomacy in general, and long-standing US opposition to reaching any sort of peace deal with North Korea.
It is particularly noteworthy that President Trump reacted to the suggestion of talks with the exact same language he reacted recently to questions about starting a nuclear war in Korea, that “we’ll see what happens.”
President Moon is likely to pursue diplomacy with or without America’s blessing, particularly with both China and Russia endorsing a diplomatic tack that the US sees as contrary to their own ambitions. The US could easily risk their long-term relationship with South Korea in this regard, by spurning peace talks out of hand.