By Jonathan Cheng
August 28, 2013
With U.S. diplomat Robert King headed to Pyongyang this week, the focus turns from North Korea’s rapprochement with its southern neighbor to its still-tense relationship with the United States. There’s reason to be optimistic that trans-Pacific relations will improve, but many roadblocks still remain.
In recent weeks, North Korea has launched a full-scale charm offensive with the South, striking a deal on family reunions and agreeing to reopen a joint industrial zone. All the while, the North has issued official statements heralding a “hard-won atmosphere of dialogue between the north and the south.”
But the decision to meet with Mr. King, U.S. President Barack Obama‘s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, is Pyongyang’s first public move so far to court the U.S., following months of saber-rattling since the North’s nuclear test in February.
Analysts are now parsing what this olive branch means for the U.S.’s attempts to halt the North’s progress on developing nuclear capabilities.
By allowing Mr. King into the country ostensibly on a mission to bring back Kenneth Bae, the American citizen detained in Pyongyang, the North appears for now to be confining the engagement to non-nuclear issues, says Duyeon Kim, a senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington.
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