The first formal talks in two years between Seoul and Pyongyang were held in the demilitarised zone Tuesday.
The world can breathe just a little easier as geopolitical tensions in the Korean peninsula seem to have eased. The first formal talks in two years between Seoul and Pyongyang were held in the demilitarised zone Tuesday, when the North agreed to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in the South next month. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has said he’s willing to sit and talk with Kim Jong-un. It’s a truism not only of modern diplomacy that direct talks are the best way to solve any tangle. Kim, who may be seen as an arrogantly isolationist figure responding only to China, has come down a step, and South Korea, facing the most immediate threat, has every reason to believe a summit is possible.
No matter how successful these talks may be in arriving at some kind of accord on defusing hostilities, the American factor will still sit heavily on ally South Korea. Mr Kim may talk peace with Seoul, but he’ll be unwilling to discuss his nation’s rising nuclear capabilities which include the power to fire an ICBM that can reach the American mainland. Having underestimated North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and misjudged the pace at which it developed its missile technology, the US will be more worried about containing the missile programme. The talks may be tricky for Mr Moon as he has agreed with Donald Trump to continue maximum pressure on the North “to complete and verifiable denuclearisation”. The Trump factor is another unknown: will the US President ease off on nuclear bluster and allow the two Koreas to make peace first?