SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After a year of threats and weapons advances, North Korea’s leader appears to be using the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in South Korea as a tool to blunt growing international pressure on his regime while leaving his nuclear arsenal untouched.
Kim Jong Un, in his annual New Year’s Day speech, called for reduced tensions on the Korean peninsula and flagged the North’s possible participation in the Games next month, just across the border in Pyeongchang.
South - Korea - North - Korea - Games
South Korea has been eager to involve North Korea to ensure the Games are not disrupted by any further nuclear or missile tests and as a way of re-establishing dialogue with the reclusive state.
Analysts say Kim’s gambit is aimed at driving a wedge between Seoul and Washington, which has advocated a strategy of maximum pressure and insisted that all options, including military ones, are on the table.
Move - Consensus - Players - China - Russia
But the move also targets the broader international consensus involving major players China, Russia and Japan that has tightened sanctions and deepened isolation for North Korea in recent months.
“A major part of the Kim family playbook is to exploit and to widen the divergences in the interests, in the first instance between the U.S. and South Korea, but more broadly among the five major neighbors,” said Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia until last April and now at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
North - Korea - Strategy - Provocations - Phases
North Korea has long followed such a strategy of intense provocations followed by conciliatory phases aimed at exposing rifts, he said.
“This is a classic united we stand, divided we fall situation,” Russel said. “It’s always easier to maintain five party solidarity when North Korea is behaving badly.”
US - President - Donald - Trump - Drive
U.S. President Donald Trump has led a drive to step up global sanctions on North Korea as it seeks to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the...
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