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The path forward for dealing with North Korea
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[South Korean President Moon Jae-in]’s been pursuing a parallel diplomatic policy. Basically, it’s like having two partners, and you have to constantly dance with both of them, while at the same time not losing your own stance and your own posture.
[On the inter-Korean talks] It remains to be seen if the more civil atmosphere prior to the Olympics can address the much deeper divide over major substantive issues - in particular, North Korea's nuclear and missile development (which Pyongyang insists is none of Seoul's business) and the almost certain North Korean demands in any future discussions to weaken or dismantle outright the workings of the U.S.-ROK alliance. The critical issue here is whether the ROK is prepared to say 'no' to the inevitable demands from the DPRK, despite the Moon administration's clear desire to improve inter-Korean relations.
I don’t want to say [we should have] low expectations [for North Koera-South Korea talks], but we should have small-step expectations. We need to encourage both North Korea and South Korea to take baby steps. They’re not going to go for nuclear issues first. They’re going to go for the traditional issues they have worked on. I doubt that President Moon will be on a highway course to change the dynamics with North Korea.
The fact that North Korea wants to talk to South Korea makes me cautiously optimistic, but I don’t have high expectations. We need to be careful about not blowing this out of proportion.
North Korea wants many things including economic access, so the price tag to negotiate with North Korea on anything is much higher than it ever was because of its nuclear capability now. People should not assume that because these overtures have been made that it’s going to be follow the yellow brick road, a little bit of fun and that’s that. It’s going to come with a high cost.
[Are the North Koreans prepared to suspend nuclear missile tests to enter talks with South Korea?] Because if they don’t, I don’t see any realistic possibility of any kind of discussion, and certainly not a negotiation with the North.