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These countries [across Asia] don’t want to have to choose sides [between China and the United States].
[Kim Jong Un is] controlling the clock. There was a momentum toward a [U.S.] military option, but what the Olympics thaw or propaganda or pageantry did was it slowed time down. The more there’s inter-Korean engagement, the more wind is taken out of the sails of preemptive or preventive strikes on North Korea. [Kim wants to convey] his mastery of the situation. [But he is unlikely to release his nuclear arsenal.] It’s in Kim Jong Un’s DNA to pursue nuclear weapons. His grandfather wanted it. His father wanted it.
[Inter-Korean talks are] a big deal. It could be that ‘maximum pressure’ is working and [Kim] wants to loosen sanctions, there might be domestic drivers, there could be rumblings among the elite. It is probably a gambit to try and lure South Korea away from the West. It’s also related to creating this international prestige for Kim Jong Un. We just have to be very clear eyed that we’ve been down this road before.
It’s clear to me that [Trump administration officials] have no plans for what happens if the North Koreans actually do come to talks. [Ivanka Trump went to the Olympics] equipped with the talking points, but not what to do to finesse the situation to possibly get dialogue going.