For the first time in two years, South Korea and North Korea are engaged in substantive diplomacy. And for the first time since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, over the next two months – until the Winter Olympics in South Korea wrap up at the end of February – there is a prime opportunity to test the waters of U.S.-North Korea diplomacy.
The January talks between North and South Korea reveal that Kim Jong Un is willing to evolve his strategy, at least for the moment. South Korea has been attempting to restart a dialogue since President Moon Jae-in took office in May, and only now is Kim Jong Un responding positively. North Korea agreed to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics next month in Pyongyang, South Korea, and both sides agreed to further talks on easing military tensions. It is highly likely that North Korea is trying to divide the United States and South Korea, but it is also possible that – as Kim claimed in his New Year’s speech offering talks with the South – North Korea now feels comfortable enough with its nuclear and missile capabilities to negotiate from a position of strength.