Just two days after offering South Korea and the U.S. a list of conditions to allow for talks, North Korea reiterated that it will not be giving up its nuclear program. Despite the bipolarity of this statement, this is a sign of progress for the United States and South Korea, who have been working hard to dial down the escalated threats coming from North Korea in recent weeks. Even though the U.S. emphasized that it is waiting for "clear signals" from Pyongyang that it will halt all nuclear weapons development, this recent move by Kim Jong-un's government is being hailed as progress.
By North Korean standards, their official statement was downright polite compared to the nearly daily call for the destruction of 'the nest of evil.' North Korea's state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun released a commentary from the government outlining the conditions: "The U.S. should not think about the denuclearization on the peninsula before the world is denuclearized ... There may be talks between the DPRK and the U.S. for disarmament but no talks on denuclearization." DPRK is an acronym for the official name for North Korea — the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — one of the more amusingly ironic names for a dictatorship.
"I wouldn’t say the crisis has passed, but maybe we’re in a less dangerous phase," summarized Evans J.R. Revere, Senior Director of Albright Stoneridge Consulting Group and a former State Department Asia expert. He explained the de-escalation of rhetoric from Pyongyang as a natural result of bloated threats in recent weeks: "Where do you go after you threaten to nuke Los Angeles, Austin, Texas and Washington? The place to go after that is to carry out your threats, and they are not in the position to do that." As a result of this rhetorical plateauing, North Korea seems to be ready to sit down and discuss terms after years of increasingly vitriolic threats since the unfortunate dissolution of the Sunshine Policy that had sustained North-South peace for a decade.
Further hinting at chances of progress, China announced Friday that its special envoy for North Korea will be visiting the U.S. early next week to conduct talks with the State Department. Maybe there may even be some credibility to Tony Burman's op-ed on why Kim Jong-un deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing China and U.S. to work together, but this "flurry of diplomacy," however, has not won over all parties. North Korea continues to scoff talks in its state newspaper, and South Korean officials are worried that the softening stance is just another geopolitical manouver by the North. These fears are credible enough today because of the lack of understanding of Kim Jong-un's motives and thinking style.
Nonetheless, if the momentum continues and North Korea sits down at the table for the first time since Kim Jong-un's assumption of leadership, the U.S. and South Korea can chalk this up to a win.