Kim's gambit — sending his sister to the Winter Olympics in South Korea with an invitation for President Moon Jae-in to visit him in Pyongyang — had provoked some consternation. Was he hoping to divide Moon, who favors rapprochement, from the more hardline views of U.S. President Donald Trump? On his way home from the Games, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said what should have been equally obvious: The allies should not allow themselves to be divided. Talks, even between the U.S. and North Korea, can and should proceed alongside the global pressure campaign against the North's nuclear program.
Two things are worth recalling. First, there's no military solution to this crisis. Any conflict would result in a U.S. victory — but also an inconceivable number of casualties in South Korea, and possibly Japan and U.S. territories such as Guam. That's why talk of a "bloody nose" strategy — launching a limited strike to intimidate Kim — is foolish.
Second, sanctions alone won't solve the problem either. Though China has gone along with far harsher restrictions than ever before, Chinese leaders will always resist any measures — such as cutting off supplies of fuel — that might provoke a collapse in the North. Current sanctions seem to be having an impact on the North Korean economy. But it'll take time for pressure within the system to build — and, in the meantime, Kim's scientists will continue their race to deploy a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile. With tensions so high, the chances of a miscalculation rise by the day.
At the very least, all sides have reason to lower that risk. The Olympics have provided a temporary window of calm, with the North refraining from further nuclear or missile tests and the U.S. and South Korea delaying scheduled military exercises. The immediate goal should be to extend that window. Moon should make clear that any talks — let alone a summit in Pyongyang — are contingent on a continued lull in testing. If nothing else, that will help slow the North's progress toward a functioning ICBM.
If the U.S. joins the talks as well, it would be worth exploring a more formal arrangement. Unsurprisingly, Pence reiterated that any serious negotiations must lead to Kim giving up his nukes. While that should remain the official goal, it's unrealistic at the moment. That means the U.S. needs to focus for the foreseeable future on improving what it's been doing for 25 years: containing and deterring North Korea by tightening economic sanctions, improving missile defenses, coordinating with allies in the region as well as rivals such as China and Russia, and so on. That effort, too, can continue alongside talks. Such an approach won't always produce good news, but it should prevent the worst.
To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View;s editorials: David Shipley at [email protected] .
Moon Jae-in shakes hands with Kim Yo Jong during the opening ceremony on Feb. 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Explainer – US sends conflicting signals over North Korea diplomacy
Kim Jong Un expressed satisfaction with South Korea;s treatment of his sister during a visit to mark the opening of the Winter Olympics, and called for more efforts to improve ties between the countries.
A high-level delegation including the North Korean leader;s sister, Kim Yo Jong, spent three days in South Korea before returning Sunday to Pyongyang. South Korea;s President Moon Jae-In met her four times, and received an invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un for a summit in North Korea;s capital.
Kim Jong Un received the delegation;s report, expressed satisfaction, and said he was impressed by how South Korean representatives prioritized the delegation;s visit and put in ;sincere efforts for their convenience,; according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Kim gave detailed guidance on how to improve relations with South Korea going forward, the report said.
It was important to develop a ;warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue; with South Korea, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Joe Concha Calls Out Media Outlets for ‘Glamorizing’ Kim Jong Un’s Sister
In a separate report, KCNA said Kim met members of the Samjiyon Orchestra, which performed in South Korea. Kim said he was pleased that Moon and his wife expressed satisfaction with the performances, the report said.