North, South Korea Re-Open Communication, US Pauses Military Exercises

By Faye Higbee

North Korea re-opened a communication line with South Korea that had been unused for two years, bringing hope for real talks between the two governments amid massive international pressure and sanctions. The US and South Korea agreed Thursday morning to pause joint military exercises until after both the Winter Olympics in February, and the Paralympic games that end March 18. Secretary of Defense James Mattis cautioned not to read too much into the pause in military exercises.

On Monday, the North re-opened a communication line that had been dormant for two years. On Tuesday, the South offered talks with the Olympics as a bargaining chip (Kim wants to send a team of athletes).

Pausing Military Exercises

The US has previously used a pause in military exercises as a “reward” of sorts for North Korea.  This time, however, SecDef Mattis cautioned that it’s more of a “logistics” issue.

The main issue is the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics, events that will bring huge crowds into South Korea. Attempting to gear up military exercises amid the crowds of tourists and increased police presence would be a “logistical nightmare.”

“It’s just the normal deconfliction. I wouldn’t read too much into it because we don’t know if it is a genuine olive branch or not. Obviously, we have to be open to anything that would implement a diplomatic solution…Those talks clearly are the result of the amount of international pressure, and they are a way, I think, for North Korea to start talking while keeping it contained for a benign issue. It is difficult for me to disassociate that he is now willing to negotiate on any issue with months and months of United Nations Security Council effort.”

“Genuine olive branch?”

“Peace” talks with a manipulator like Kim Jong Un could simply be a way for him to get what he wants. Unfortunately, many South Koreans may believe his lip service because they are eager for rapproachment with the North. Dealing with a repressive regime can be riddled with false hopes and pitfalls.

While liberals cry that Donald Trump is “deranged,” they aren’t paying real attention to the overall picture of what he is doing.

In reality, the President’s constant reminders to Kim that we’re more powerful and Ambassador Nikki Haley’s continual push to isolate the DPRK at the UN may be having an effect. Rather than tackle the united front of US leadership, they may be trying for a softer South Korean response, hoping for a different outcome. Like looking for the weakest link in the chain.  Don’t be fooled.