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Burgers vs Sanctions: Will Trump’s New Approach to North Korea Bear Fruit?

Burgers vs Sanctions: Will Trump’s New Approach to North Korea Bear Fruit?

Burgers vs Sanctions: Will Trump’s New Approach to North Korea Bear Fruit?
February 22
17:33 2017

An upcoming meeting between North Korean and US representatives may herald a shift in the relationship between Pyongyang and Washington.

A new meeting between high-ranking North Korean representatives and former US officials is currently being prepared by Washington and Pyongyang, the Washington Post reports, citing sources.

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According to the newspaper, preparations for the meeting were complicated by events such as the recent North Korean ballistic missile test and the murder of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, not to mention that the Department of State has apparently refused to approve entry visas for the North Korean representatives.

Nevertheless, if this meeting – the first of its kind to be held on US soil in five years – does take place, it may offer a glimmer of hope amid the decades-old standoff between the two countries.

Alexander Vorontsov, head of the Korean department of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Far Eastern Studies, told Sputnik Japan that the meetings between US and North Korean officials like the one that is currently being prepared are, in fact, not that uncommon.

“Such meetings are in fact being held on a regular basis, but do not attract significant attention due to their status as ‘track two’ diplomacy. But the fact that this upcoming meeting has already attracted considerable attention from the US media suggests that the new US administration treats these unofficial meetings more seriously and has adopted a new approach. There may even be some kind of basis being prepared for increasing the level of dialogue,” he said.

Vorontsov pointed out that these conjectures appear quite logical considering one of the statements Donald Trump made during the presidential election campaign: when he said he could have a burger with Kim Jong-un.

“It is obviously way too early to make some bold predictions based on that statement alone. But on the other hand, it appears very likely that Washington finally realized that the approach adopted by the previous administration didn’t work. For eight years the Obama administration stuck to the ‘carrot without stick’ method (towards North Korea) i.e. kept applying pressure without offering any incentives. This approach clearly failed as despite the imposed sanctions none of its goals were achieved. So Trump’s team now has to develop some kind of a new approach while Pyongyang gets its first opportunity to establish contact with them,” he explained.

Meanwhile, North Korea appears quite eager. According to Alexander Zhebin, chief of the Center for Korean Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Pyongyang’s enthusiasm may stem from the US reaction to the recent North Korean ballistic missile test.

“This revival of contacts, if the meeting does take place, will occur after another ballistic missile test is conducted by North Korea – the first such test after Trump administration came to power. But the available information about the meeting suggests that despite this test, the US is still willing to talk with North Korea. Basically, the White House chose not to follow in the footsteps of the Obama administration and abstained from condemning the missile launch. This may indicate that the new administration is willing to actually negotiate regarding the North Korean missile program issue instead of simply slapping the country with sanctions,” he said.

If both the US and North Korea express a willingness to compromise, it may eventually result in the resumption of the six-party talks and help de-escalate tensions in the Asian-Pacific region, Zhebin surmised.

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Edward Bokhua

Edward Bokhua

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