- Even though President Donald Trump has taken a more militaristic line against North Korea, it seems his top diplomats have worked out a road to peace talks.
- North Korea has to tell the US they will stop testing missiles for 60 days, and then the US will engage in direct talks.
- North Korea’s last test was on September 15, so this is an imminently doable ask.
Despite months of fiery rhetoric about “totally destroying” North Korea, it appears President Donald Trump’s State Department has narrowed in on a plan for peace with Pyongyang.
“It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and to make a deal that’s good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world,” Trump said on a recent trip to South Korea, striking a more optimistic and diplomatic tone than before.
Joseph Yun, the State Department’s top North Korea official, told the Council on Foreign Relations on October 30 that the US would resume direct dialogue with Pyongyang if it ceased missile tests for 60 days, sources told The Washington Post.
North Korea last launched a missile on September 15, near the 60-day mark, but administration sources told The Post that launch didn’t count, as North Korea had not previously agreed on a 60-day pause.
But North Korea could easily meet the two-month limit and may have already been planning to. Shea Cotton, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, pointed out on Twitter that historically, North Korea hardly ever launches in the winter and late fall.
In that sense, the 60-day freeze is a low bar for Kim Jong Un, who prefers to launch during the spring when the US and South Korea engage in their annual military drills.
However, the 60-day freeze isn’t all that’s needed for peace, only a prerequisite for talks. Additionally, nothing guarantees that talks will turn into peace, as North Korea and the US hold totally opposite goals and views of how the talks should play out.
North Korea wants the US to accept it as a legitimate nuclear-weapons state, like the US does with China, Russia, India, and others. The US wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons entirely.
But neither side can find out where the other would make concessions unless they actually talk. Today, the US and North Korea talk through a diplomatic back channel and have no formal relations.
Even formal meetings between officials could diffuse the record-high tensions that saw Kim and Trump exchanging nuclear threats over the summer.
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