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Is North Korea Caving? Or is it Cunning?

January 3, 2018
Plain English Version

Kim Jong-un New Year’s speech Photo Credit: Lee Jin-Man AP/Images

Kim Jong-un is the leader of North Korea. He wants his country to have a nuclear weapon that can reach the United States. He believes that will make the rest of the world respect his country. He then wants to go on to become a global force like China.

For the past three decades, North Korea worked to reach its nuclear goal. They are close to reaching it.

American presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all pledged to rein in North Korea’s ambitions. They failed. President Donald Trump said he would succeed.

Trump said he would destroy North Korea if it threatened to attack the U.S. Mr. Kim now says he can attack the U.S. He recently said he had a “nuclear button on his desk.”


America’s strategy has been to impose economic sanctions on North Korea. The United Nations supports the sanctions strategy. Nations are enforcing the sanctions against trading with North Korea. Stopping the flow of refined oil to North Korea is starting. Efforts to keep North Koreans from working in foreign countries are in place. These sanctions are working.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea invited him to send North Korean athletes to the Winter Olympics next month. The games are South Korea. Mr. Kim sent a signal that he wants to talk about that.


North Korea and South Korea may start meeting. And talks may not just be about the Olympics. The talks may result in improved relations between the two countries. This puts Trump in a tough place. He wants to press on with the sanctions. He believes that sanctions are his best path to bringing North Korea to the table.

But if the two Koreas are conversing, other countries may begin to relax their sanctions. Kim Jong-un is betting that better relations with South Korea will restrain the U.S. He may also think he can drive a wedge between South Korea and America.

What if North Korea has the nuclear weapons it says it has? The U.S. said that it would not talk with North Korea unless they agree not to have nuclear weapons. The U.S. position is not much of threat if North Korea already has them.

Rather than risk a war between the U.S. and North Korea, the world is likely to push the U.S. to discuss the future with a nuclear-ready North Korea.

With nuclear power, North Korea has something to bargain with. It might be willing to agree to reduce the number of its nuclear weapons. It might be willing to stop or reduce further development of its nuclear program.

This could be the start of the next phase in relations between the two countries.

Source: The New York Times January 1, 2018


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