Détente between North, South Korea temporary, says expert

The apparent thawing of the tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang is just "temporary", and the North Korean nuclear issue would resurface after the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, an expert said.

During an interview with Sino-US.com, Abraham Denmark, director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, expressed pessimism over the detente brought by Kim Jong-un's decision to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics and his call for unification with South Korea, noting that Pyongyang has no reason to drop its nuclear weapons program and the United States is considering a limited military strike on North Korea, which would lead to terrible consequences.

Currently, America's policy toward North Korea remains uncertain as reflected in the fact that the consideration of a limited military operation against the isolated country contradicts the previous public statement by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the United States would not use the military option and was willing to hold talks with North Korea to solve the problem, said Denmark, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia.

The Winter Olympics indeed brought an opportunity for South Korea and North Korea to mend fences in a diplomatic way, but it could be "temporary" because the United States, a major stakeholder in the region, not only wants to see the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula but also wants to solve a series of other problems in North Korea, said Denmark.

In his state of the union address, US President Donald Trump clearly conveyed deep concerns over North Korea's problems including nuclear and missile development, human rights abuse as well as tyranny, according to Denmark.

It is possible that the confrontation between the United States and North Korea intensifies after the Winter Olympics, noted the former official, citing the fact that Victor Cha, who opposes the use of military operation in dealing with the North Korean nuclear problem, was removed from the candidate list for the ambassador to South Korea.

Driven by fears that North Korea's missiles could threaten the American territory, US President Trump has pledged to launch the "campaign of maximum pressure" against the hermit country in an effort to force it to return to the negotiating table. But Denmark thinks it would take a long time before the campaign could take effect especially at a time when North Korea's nuclear program has basically been successful.

Although US President Trump urged China to play a more positive role in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis, the increased trade tensions between the world's two largest economies might to some extent handicap the two countries' joint efforts to solve the problem regardless of the common interests the two have on the Korean Peninsula. At the same time, Russia, another stakeholder in the region, still sees North Korea as "partner", complicating the situation, noted Denmark.

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