South Korean President Moon’s diplomatic efforts in engaging with North Korea seem to have borne fruit:
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said on Sunday that high-ranking officials from North Korea told him their country was willing to start a dialogue with the United States, a potential diplomatic victory for Mr. Moon, who has been urging the two countries to talk.
The U.S. ought to test North Korea’s willingness to talk by taking them up on the offer. That would help to repair some of the strain on the relationship with Seoul, and it would help to reduce tensions with the DPRK. The administration should coordinate its response with South Korea and Japan, and it should put the question of denuclearization aside so that there is a chance that the talks might yield something of value.
The White House’s response to the news doesn’t offer much encouragement that any of this will happen:
New White House statement on North Korea pic.twitter.com/jYFz0AhhtU
— William Gallo (@GalloVOA) February 25, 2018
North Korea isn’t going to agree to denuclearization, so the administration’s position that this be the condition for serious dialogue is an obvious non-starter. If the U.S. and its allies want North Korea to make concessions by agreeing to limits on its arsenal and its testing, they will first have to accept that demanding denuclearization is a dead end and adapt accordingly.
The latest news serves as a reminder of how derelict the administration has been in failing to appoint an ambassador to Seoul. The administration’s general disdain for diplomacy is catching up with it, and the U.S. and its allies have been paying the price for it. Were it not for the efforts of the South Korean government, there would be no opening for a diplomatic solution at all. The administration has a small window of opportunity to improve on its hopeless North Korea policy, but it won’t last long.