Country Reports

Since the diplomatic collapse in Hanoi, talks between the US and North Korea have remained at an impasse throughout April and May, while President Moon Jae-in kept seeking ways to play his role as a middleman and bring the two sides back to the negotiating table. One such attempt was another meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington, which conservatives in Seoul harshly criticized as it only revealed that Washington’s stance on sanctions and inter-Korean economic projects had not changed since Hanoi and proved that the gap between the two allies is wider than imagined. But at the summit there was a ray of hope for a third US-DPRK meeting as Trump hinted at this possibility as did Kim Jong-un during his speech at the Supreme People’s Assembly. Before long, Kim met with Vladimir Putin for the first time in an effort to gain Russia’s support in the nuclear deadlock, and Putin showed his eagerness to have the six-party talks convened, complicating the nuclear equation in Northeast Asia. As the impasse continued, Pyongyang fired rockets and missiles twice, only five days apart, and created a ferocious dispute between the ruling and opposition groups at home. Regardless, Moon approved of shipping humanitarian aid to North Korea and allowed South Korean business owners who still own property in the Kaesong Industrial Complex to visit the North, sticking to a dovish approach to save the dialogue.

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