"SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s surprise call on Monday for direct talks with South Korea could drive a wedge into the decades-old alliance between Seoul and Washington, potentially creating a reprieve from months of tensions but also undercutting President Trump’s tough approach to the nuclear-armed North.
A New Year’s Day speech by Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, contained a dramatic shift in tone and policy regarding the South. After ignoring South Korea for years, Mr. Kim called for urgent dialogue to discuss improving ties and easing military tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula, even as he claimed an ability to strike the mainland United States with nuclear missiles.
Mr. Kim also agreed to a request by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea to send a North Korean delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to be held in the South next month.
Mr. Kim’s about-face, which was broadcast on state-run television, came just days after Washington rallied its allies and rivals to support increasingly punishing United Nations sanctions against North Korea." (NYT)
Along with his dapper new suit, Kim Jong-un greeted the new year with a new tack in his statesmanship. He is reaching out to Seoul for direct talks and agreeing to send a delegation to the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Along with this message, Kim declared that the DPRK has established a nuclear deterrence force and that the button for that force sits on his desk.
President Moon Jae-in quickly responded favorably to Kim’s overture. I’m sure Moscow and Beijing will also respond favorably. I firmly believe that neither Moscow nor Beijing are keen on the DPRK becoming a nuclear armed state, but they both would prefer a nuclear DPRK to a failed DPRK. I predict Putin and Xi will provide the necessary cover from the inevitable rage tweets from Mar-a-Lago to allow Kim and Moon to seek a negotiated solution to the problems of the Korean peninsula.