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Two Koreas Agree to End War This Year, Pursue Denuclearization (bloomberg.com)
673 points by almost_usual on Apr 27, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 400 comments

Am I the only one who thinks this is happening mainly because of political shifts in South Korea? 2013-2017 the South Korean president was Park Geun-hye of the conservative Saenuri Party. They generally have a hostile attitude towards North Korea. In late 2016 she had a major scandal, was impeached, and Moon Jae-in of the more liberal Democratic Party won. They are generally more willing no talk to the North. He is the person meeting Kim today.

I would doubt this because from 1998 to 2008 Korea has had liberal presidents who had a policy of engagement towards North Korea and we didn't get peace in that time.

While getting rid of Park Geun-Hye certainly made this easier - I think this has more to do with Kim Jong Un and also the warm reception N. Korea got at the recent winter Olympics in South Korea.

That said I would be cautious how far this would go. I suspect a lot of N. Koreas militaristic acts and statements over the years is not because of any actual desire but war, but just posturing to help in negotiations over tariffs and aid.

I am also going to take the unpopular opinion and say that Trump does deserve some credit. Under many past Presidents, the N. Korean government knew America would never use military force and acted accordingly. Under Trump, they have good reason to be concerned about the possibility of military force and are taking a more cautious and reconciliatory approach. I think the North Koreans are well aware that militaristic posturing won't get them very far with Trump the way it did with past presidents.

Reunification efforts in the late 1990s and early 2000s were complicated by the shift in US Policy from the Clinton to Bush Admin. Clinton's admin wanted to support the so called Sunshine Policy, which favored moving towards reunification.

For the US's part, they agreed to not re apply new sanctions on the North as long as the North continued to operate within the parameters of their Sunshine Policy negotiated with the South. That was what was happening, but then Bush came into office and this policy changed. New sanctions were put upon DPRK and they would eventually be included in the Bush Admin's "Axis of Evil" (Iran, Iraq, and North Korea).

This caused the North to go back on its agreements and the Sunshine Policy as a whole, and did also align with more conservative governments in South Korea.

All that said, I was smiling so big last night seeing the two leaders shaking hands, smiling themselves. A reunification of the 2 Koreas would be an absolute blessing upon the world. Many people in the North and South long to be reunited. Not to mention the ease of so many tensions in SE Asia that would come from 1 Korea.

Not to mention the fact that this can lead to easing the tremendous suffering of the people of North Korea. South Korea is an exciting country that is accomplishing some really cool stuff, and it would be great if the residents of the North to get a chance to participate in growing their prosperity instead of forever starving in a totalitarian nightmare.

Kim Jong-un wasn't the leader of NK from 98-08 as well, fwiw.

1998 had progress in detente between North Korea and the United States, which was not adhered to by either party. (Congress sunk the deal on the end of the US, and North Korea reacted in kind.)

2002-2008 was, if you recall, was the era of the Axis of Evil rhetoric.

> Under Trump, they have good reason to be concerned about the possibility of military force and are taking a more cautious and reconciliatory approach. I think the North Koreans are well aware that militaristic posturing won't get them very far with Trump the way it did with past presidents.

If they did fear Trump, why did they launch rocket after rocket while he threatened them with hell's fury? Trump role in the story appears more to be as an easily antagonalizable president against whom it is easy to show how "strong" you are. It's easier to negotiate from a position of strength than in one which you are thought of as to be inferior.

Kim and Trump are similar enough psychologically that they can have a comfortable dialogue. Kim looked at Obama and saw someone entirely alien. Vice versa, of course. That sort of disconnect existed between past administrations as well. The bluster and insult that is the native tongue of blessed creatures like K and T is a foreign language to most urbane cosmopolitan educated politicians. They recoiled at "Rocket Man". Kim thought to himself, "What an asshole! Finally someone is speaking my language!"

A more plausible explanation would be the that South Korea's Conservative hawkish president Park Geun-hye was replaced by Moon Jae-in who is more open to negotiations with North Korea.

It's early in the process, and it's possible to write off Moon's direct crediting of Trump as a diplomatic nicety. Certainly Moon is doing his part as well. Park was no ogre, however, and she was preceded by a number of other non-ogre SK leaders. Somehow they couldn't do what Moon has, while USA had its finger on the scale of conflict. One suspects that historians in decades to come will enjoy studying the contrasts between Trump and his predecessors, both the real contrasts and those reported in popular media.

I've heard this is largely because North Korea's nuclear test site collapsed:


With no viable test site, North Korea's nuclear program is kaput, as are their ambitions of becoming a major nuclear power. Moreover, there is now a massive environmental disaster that will affect people all over the Korean peninsula plus northern China. They have no choice to come to the negotiating table, and South Korea has a strong incentive to reach a peace deal so they can get their geologists, engineers, and inspectors in and mitigate the damage before a massive fall-out plume blows over Seoul.

What environmental disaster are you talking about?

Unrelated, but the scandal that got Park kicked out was wild. Never thought someone trying to force their daughter into a college would lead to the president of SK resigning.

South Korean politic scandals are fascinating to watch from the outside... must suck to have to deal with if you lived there though. I spent six months in Busan, not long enough for any of that myself and I was too young to have given a damn about politics anyway

While Trump clearly had a major role in this agreement (contrary to what some media want to portray), your hypothesis is indeed rather strongly backed by the post-impeachment relevation [1]. I guess this is not well known outside of SK, so I tried to give some outline:

Park Geun-hye in her presidental term had repeatedly stressed that the Korean reunification will be a bonanza ("통일은 대박이다"), but this unusual and ultimately information-free slogan turned out to be coined by Choi Soon-sil, a cult leader behind Park Geun-hye. Choi wanted to, literally, make NK collapse in two years after the sudden closure of the Kaesong Industrial Region in 2016 in order to pave a way to Park's reelection---while the current Constitution of South Korea does not allow for the presidental reelection, critical events like the collapse of NK can force amendments or even allow excuse to the Constitution. Choi even tried to leverage those future events into huge returns by buying land near the 38th parallel.

After Park's impeachment, it was revealed that there were multiple attempts from NK (yes, you read right) during the Park's term to make contact to SK, only to be ignored. For example, top officials from NK visited SK during the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon and (unsuccessfully) asked to arrange a meeting with Park. This breakdown was for a long time attributed to NK, but in reality Park (and in turn, Choi) had just ignored the request.

[1] The primary source is an interview of Jang Shiho from Lee Gyu-yeon's Spotlight (a JTBC programme), but individual points were also independently confirmed via multiple sources. Jang was a niece of Choi Soon-sil and eventually sentenced to 2 1/2 year imprisonment in 2017 after giving much clues to investigators (for plea bargaining).

I think a lot of this news went largely unnoticed by those in the west but Choi Soon-Sil was truly Korea's Rasputin. I encourage anyone interested in hearing a crazy story to take a look at the debacle between her and Park Geun-Hye.

Anyone and anything but Trump caused this. That's what I'm seeing today, and I don't think that's remotely correct.

Only one major change has taken place, and it's not a change of presidency in SK.

Whether we like him or not, President Trump did this, and we should rejoice. SK's President says Trump made this possible -- shall we ignore that?

> Only one major change has taken place, and it's not a change of presidency in SK.

This is so wildly inaccurate. First off, a colossal scandal and changing of power from one party to another party in one of the countries involved in the treaty certainly counts as a major change, especially when it's a transition from an anti-reconciliation government to a pro-reconciliation one. In fact, this is the first time that the president of SK has held that position during the reign of Kim Jong-Un.

In addition to that, NK has finally actually demonstrated nuclear capability, turning that into a FAR more credible threat than ever before.

Lastly, China's position on NK has been shifting over time (definitely started during the Obama presidency) and they have become increasingly impatient and intolerant of NK. That has accelerated during (and likely because of) Trump, but he 100% didn't start it.

I am sure that Trump played a role in this, but to suggest that he is the only major change is pure American exceptionalist nonsense.

NK had been working towards ICBMs + nukes for decades. This had been the biggest source of conflict with the U.S. during all that time. That their project completed is not enough to explain why the DPRK is coming to the table.

Giving up their nuclear capability means they can never do this again, and they'll have no way to ensure that we keep giving them whatever it is that we'll agree to give them. Which is why I fully expected them to insist on a continuation of the status quo, with them retaining their nukes.

That they are willing to [verifiably, presumably] give up their nukes is a very big deal. It means that the DPRK was faced with something very bad for them. That can only have been Trump's twisting of the screws on the DPRK. My impression is that Trump would starve them to the point that Kim would end up hanging from a lamp post, and that he has the leverage on China needed to make that happen.

The change in the American approach to the DPRK nuclear weapons issue is the biggest change, and it is the direct cause of Kim suing for peace.

> Only one major change has taken place

Trump taking office? You don't think this has anything to do with the fact that the DPRK now has a working ICBM and thermonuclear warhead, giving them much more leverage in negotiations?

Not at all. Their project to make ICBMs and nukes goes back to the early 90s. It culminated recently, yes, but it's not like Trump was elected and Kim went all like "oh no, they elected Trump, let's go make nukes and show them how much we dislike Trump!". Without the DPRK's ICBM and nuclear weapons program there would have been no negotiations in 1994 (under Clinton), not in the aughts (under Bush), and not now (under Trump).

EDIT: They never needed nukes. Vietnam has no nukes and we've all left them alone. Iraq would have been left alone had Hussein not invaded Kuwait. Afghanistan would have been left alone had 9/11 not happened or had the Taliban turned over bin Laden. And so on.

We don't yet know what the DPRK will get out of this. So far it seems like "security guarantees". Probably also money and such, but in any verifiable nuclear disarmament by the DPRK all of such concessions are one-time. I'm shocked they're even offering anything given that once they give up the nukes they give up all leverage, but it goes to show that we (Trump!) have something even stronger leverage: we can starve the DPRK into submission because we can hurt China in the pocket book, and everyone believes that Trump means to do these things.

>Anyone and anything but Trump caused this.

I initially misread your comment. To anybody who wants more info on how this all went down:

SK wanted to meet with NK specifically because the US was taking increasingly aggressive stances towards NK, and they wanted to avoid conflict. The rest of the peace talks are a direct result of Trump agreeing to meet with KJU.


That quote was a sarcastic comment on the state of this thread. If you look at my other comments on this thread you'll see I am crediting President Trump.

Look folks, no one has to like DJT, but we mustn't deny his successes -- we mustn't twist ourselves into pretzels to deny that he caused NK to sue for peace.

I misread your comment. Sorry about that! Edited. The link I posted is still a good one.

Yes, you're literally the only one.

You’re not alone. It’s just easier to chant “Moon Jae-in said it so it must be true”, and get enough voices to drown out any opposing views. This has been the driving strategy behind Trump’s base since the start.

Singing “Trump made this happen with his childish Twitter diplomacy” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

There is a blurry line between making something happen through direct action, and allowing it to happen through incompetence.

It's not "his childish twitter diplomacy". Mike Pompeo was just in NK. Trump also agreed to talks with KJU, which is what triggered all of these summits to begin with.

You don't have to like the guy, but the US absolutely had a hand in this.

There were also targeted sanctions and freezing of assets of Russian and Chinese smugglers, which was the most important policy change. Realpolitik cargo culting prevented prior administrations from taking that extra step.


The idea that USA diplomats and bureaucrats didn't sanction enough simply does not compute. No one in Washington ever heard of a sanction she didn't like.

I never thought I'd see this happen. I know it's Orwellian, but the concept of permanent cold war didn't seem that unlikely. It's weird to think that my grandfather fought in the Korean war and his child and grandchildren all grew up wondering if and when it was going to come to a head again. Though I guess in the grand scheme of things, there have been some much longer (and bloodier) wars in history which are barely a paragraph in history text books today.

I'm not incredibly familiar with the situation as it stands, but is re-unification a legitimate possibility? I mean, I don't see Kim Jong-Un giving up power, but I could see them wanting to claim re-unification at least from a cultural perspective, like they did in the Olympics.

I talked to a "wall expert" in college who mentioned the severe strain East Germany was on West Germany after reunification, because of the economic disparity.

Her theory was that reunification of the Koreas would be very messy given the economic disparity between the two nations, and that SK doesn't want it.

That being said I would hope that NK actually goes along with joint projects with its neighbors. Not like the aid will stop if they're more amicable.

The politics become a bit less rough if we're still talking about 2 regimes I think

I was in West Germany during and after reunification. It definitely turned out to be much more difficult and expensive than most people expected. Considering that East Germany was much wealthier than North Korea I expect building them up will be even more difficult. Some people will benefit greatly but overall it will probably a massive expense for South Korea without any benefit for most citizens.

An end to the looming spectre of war seems like a gigantic benefit to the citizenry.

Sure. But there is a also a big price to pay by regular citizens. From West Germany it didn't feel like a triumph or something worth celebrating.

NK rare earth minerals are fuel for the tech industry in SK. Probably worth 6-10 trillions USD [0]. Well enough to pay any bill.

[0] https://www.google.de/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/ljkelly/201...

But NKers moving to SK is akin to refugees since the culture shock could be huge. SK may end up having another brexit.

Germany is now an economic powerhouse. The unification paid off big long term.

It was a powerhouse before. From my memory the mood in the West got worse. There were tax raises and a lot of uncertainty when it became clear that it wasn't as easy as initially planned to get the East going economically. There was a substantial number of people on both sides who wanted the wall back.

I am not saying the reunification wasn't worth it but it was much more difficult than people may think.

For what it's worth, the West German government did honor East German marks 1-to-1, even though there was a gigantic disparity in value of both currencies. That alone was an enormous cost of the unification.

A lot of people thought that was a huge mistake. After the wall fell there was also a democratic East Germany for 2 years (?). I think a lot of people would have been OK with keeping them separate for a while but chancellor Kohl wanted to put his name on history and forced the reunification.

That (about Germany) is only partially true. Sure, the whole german state made the reunification financially possible but most of the state owned stuff (economic land & buildings etc) ended up being owned by the Bund and not the federal states. Most of it was (and still is) privatized while the federal states, citites and people having not much money which lead to many (somewhat richer) people from the west being able to buy cheap property, land and some profitable companies.

So to sum my points up: I could totally be in the South Koreans interest to reunify in order to buy cheap property in the north (and at the same time a very good reason for North Koreans to not want it, even though they would gain an immediate financial benefit through it).

Most property owned by private people before the GDR was founded was repatriated to the former owners, which was a messy process and as can be seen in Berlin, took up to now (goes for houses, gardens, fields, small shops etc.) This was further complicated because Jewish property also needed to be repatriated - with most owners murdered - as it wasn't given back by the GDR after the Nazis confiscated it.

Public land in the GDR is now owned by the German state.

"some profitable companies"

Most companies were transfered to an institution ("Treuhandanstalt") founded by the GDR. Most of these folded, because people in the GDR stopped buying former-GDR products and bought from West companies as soon as the Mark was introduced with a stupid 1:1 exchange rate instead of the real 1:7 (but it got the chancellor reelected). Additionally all export markets in Eastern Europe broke down. Imagine a company losing ALL it's customers and in the need to find new ones while still having thousands of employees. I'm not sure many companies today would survive this.

With an 1:1 exchange rate no company was profitable, most due to not enough machines working and too many people (many machines were run down in the 80s and couldn't be repaired). Funny story from former left-terrorist (RAF) members who fled to the GDR and when working in companies there (VEB) thought "this never works" because the whole company owned one xerox.

I don't think NK has a lot of functional companies though, with most people being farmers, so this should be mood.

do you have jabber or something i could talk to you on?

Reunification is probably off any conceivable timeline for now, but opening up immigration would be nearly as big a shock. As you mention, the economic disparity is massive - probably the starkest of any neighboring countries in the world. It could give rise to an even more complicated and acrimonious immigration debate than exists in the US or EU today.

If I was to design a reunification strategy, I'd probably start with limited emigration/immigration into and out of the country. Open up trade as much as possible (except for defense). Start allowing the people of the North to build up capital, and have a reason for staying. When the country is more stable, then I'd open up immigration more widely.

I'd also ensure basic human rights are currently being addressed. I don't have a solution for past violations, that's a tough issue.

Basically, I'd go with the China model.

SK and NK could do it differently. Germany didn't have to subsidize the East so much.

Also, German unification was a huge burden on all of Europe, not just Western Germany.

I was in S. Korea for a bit and I heard a North Korean ex-patriot speak and she said something I thought was really wise. Which was - what's in it for S. Korea when it comes to reconciliation? N. Korea is way behind in terms of technology, infrastructure, standard of living. If there were any sort of reunification, it would fall mostly on S. Korea's shoulders to build N. Korea up to a reasonable standard of living, and that would involve committing to an enormous public expenditure for a very long time.

S. Korean leaders may publically speak about the desire for reconciliation, but it's unlikely that they would seriously pursue it considering the economic and political strain it would place on S. Korea.

N. Koreans have a much greater interest in reunification than the South does. But that interest doesn't extend to those in power in the North who would certainly be reluctant to give up that power.

So while reunification might seem like a nice sentiment, it doesn't seem like something that those in power of either side actually want.

Economically speaking, it would add millions of people to the working stock of south korea, plus extensive land to build new cities and such. It would guarantee decades of profitable investment and growth.

The Wikipedia article for East/West German unification has a quote of a cost for reunification of about 10% of South Koreas GDP/year over a 20 year period. And North Korea 2018 appears to have a lot more catching up to do than Eastern Germany had in 1989.

Long-term I'm sure it would be profitable, but would South Korea dare make that investment in their current period of tremendous growth? The opportunity cost loss is massive. Would US/China help invest?

If N.Korea liberalized its economy private capital will do wonders, from everywhere in the world. The costs of the bureaucrats to create passports and the sort is negligible. It would be different if the government wanted to build schools, cities, buildings and the such, but that is an option not a necessity.

In principle, I would not make the government pay for anything significant and it would sort itself out.

But South Korea does not need more working stock. They already have a tough time keeping their younger population employed.[0] Also as North Korea is mostly mountainous there's not a whole lot of new "city-building" area.

[0] https://tradingeconomics.com/south-korea/youth-unemployment-...

Strange is the person that disdains the fruits of other's labor.

South Korean willingness is also a question mark for re-unification. From polls and interviews I've heard with young South Koreans, both the culture divide and the economic burden make them unenthusiastic about the idea.

Perhaps a slow process that starts with closer economic and social ties?

> I never thought I'd see this happen.

Why? Societies/nations/etc always change. Given the state of NK, what's shocking is that it didn't happen sooner.

> I'm not incredibly familiar with the situation as it stands, but is re-unification a legitimate possibility?

Reunification is inevitable just like it was between east and west germany. The only question is when.

In the meantime, if all goes to plan, it looks like the koreas + US/China are going to officially end the korean war and relations between north korea and south korea + US are going to be normalized and we will ostensibly get the "unofficial" end of the cold war. Of course the biggie being north korea giving up their nukes.

North Korea has wanted a peace treaty for some time. E.g. 2016 Rand did an analysis on North Korea wanting a peace treaty to get the US to withdraw from South Korea (https://www.rand.org/blog/2016/05/behind-north-koreas-bid-fo...). They wanted a peace treaty under Kim Jong Un's father as well (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-korea-north/north-korea-c...).

Everyone seems to be forgetting that the reason that WE have refused to sign a peace treaty for decades is because of the human rights violations in North Korea. I have no idea how the narrative switched to North Korea wanting a peace treaty as a concession from them.

It's interesting that our continued insistence on not signing a peace treaty because of humans rights violations has allowed them to continue for even longer.

That could be accurate. That's not the point though - the issue is that there are all these articles being written about North Korea wanting a peace treaty as if it's something new, when North Korea's always wanted the peace treaty.

Is that really an "issue" if that rewriting of history is what finally brings peace?

Yes. People rewriting history is always an issue no matter what the gain. Should we let Germany erase the holocaust if they donate sufficiently large sums to charity? Should we forget about the human rights issues in North Korea just so we can label the current situation peaceful, and pretend they do not exist?

I fundamentally disagree with that position, although I suspect that question may play a factor into the current partisan divide and the upcoming elections.

I don't see how signing a peace treaty will stop those human rights violations, unless North Korean leadership gives up power as part of the treaty.

I imagine that with a treaty, they would have an excuse to spend less on military and more on domestic improvement. Whether it would actually play out like that is an entirely different can of worms, though.

Human rights is an excuse.

US needs to there to curb China.

The reasoning in that RAND article is pretty effing bad. North Korea could successfully invade South Korea?! Yeah right. That's not a credible scenario whatsoever, even if the U.S. withdrew.

I haven't read through all the comments here but so far I haven't seen anyone give credit to Kim Jong Un. He's probably a pretty smart dude and has been planning these moves ever since he was a kid. At the end of all this, he will agree to "denuclearize" by reducing his nuclear stockpile over a very long time period; promise to stop doing nuclear research etc. In return he will get a ton of foreign aid, much weakened sanctions against his country and legitimacy in the international stage.

But who knows. I am no expert.

Sure, give him some credit. In the same breath that he allowed for and committed atrocities against his people.

He definitely inherited a unique job. This is a new era of realism in politics. One which is trying to overstep the sort of roadblocks comments like yours introduce. I for one want to try this for a bit.

This is a new era of realism in politics.

For most of history, politics is realism, just with an overlay of reality distortion to steer things sometimes.

You mean like the massacre of No Gun Ri and the general policy of shooting civilians in the Korean war? The Gwangju massacre?

Oh you don't mean the atrocities of the dictatorships in the south under the US military occupation, you mean the north.

Just because others have done something doesn’t excuse the behavior of the individual.

That being said, just because someone has done something horrible doesn’t mean they can’t do good things.

Your argument is an example of Whataboutism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism)

Your examples can be completely correct, and generally pertinent, but still have no weighing on the question of what credit to give Kim Jung-un, which is what the grandparent post is discussing.

Governments that don't repress their own people are an outlier, not the norm.

Yet, every time Belgium, or the United Kingdom, or Canada or the Unite States is brought up, we don't always have the thread of discussion dominated by all the awful, but irrelevant things that they have done, or are doing.

What prevents you from posting "Exactly like North Korea!" whenever Belgium or UK or Canada or US are mentioned?

I definitely don't think this would be a smart idea, but... be the change you want to see in the world!

> What prevents you from posting "Exactly like North Korea!" whenever Belgium or UK or Canada or US are mentioned?

Nothing, but much of the time, it's as irrelevant as soviet-era "And are you lynching blacks" responses. I don't think it's good for every thread that mentions a country by name to turn into this.

If we're talking about incarceration, or political freedom, sure. If we're talking about detente between two countries at war, it's less relevant. If we're talking about roll-out of 10 GW of solar power capacity in China, mentioning its human rights record[1] is a complete non-sequitor...

I feel that this case is closer to the latter then the former.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16933883

Because the cost of nuclear research and development alone is driving his decision to denuclearize, not some good, humanitarian intentions. North Korean society can't afford the development anymore.

So in short, sanctions worked?

plenty starved, but sure they worked.

I mean. Okay? Cool? Sounds like a plan.

This reminds me a little of the Gorbachev situation. He thought he could reform the Soviet Union but only started an uncontrollable process for its disintegration. Makes me wonder if Kim is just naive thinking he can open up his country while staying in power or has some smart plan. Personally I think he not knowingly has started the process of ending his regime.

Perhaps. On the other hand, China watched the events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union with great interest and adapted in a way that kept the Communist Party in power. Kim might see that as a model instead.

Maybe the fact, that North Koreas nuclear test site has collapsed, has something to do with the progress in the negotiations:


Aren't test sites just a place you set off the bombs? Seems like the worst possible place to store anything of value.

One should note that North Korea is now in a position where they can appear to make generous concessions. They are a nuclear power, and there is no way they will ever give that up, no matter how much they promise they will. They have done it in the past and will again.

In case it isn't clear, "denuclearization" means the removal of the US nuclear shield from the Korean peninsular and from Japan.

For those who aren't aware, the current US/Japan alliance guarantees the US nuclear arsenal will protect Japan (and South Korea)[1]. That is why those countries haven't pursued their own nuclear arms program.

This will be a big problem.

If North Korea offers to denuclearize then there will be huge pressure on the US to withdraw from South Korea.

North Korea is utterly untrustworthy on this of course, but that's a hard argument to make if they appear to be making reasonable concessions.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_umbrella

>North Korea is utterly untrustworthy on this of course

Maybe, but compared to who? It was the US that introduced nuclear weapons into Korea and broke the armistice, not NK. A fair deal would require the US to pull back first as they are the big stumbling block in this whole situation and always have been.

> If North Korea offers to denuclearize then there will be huge pressure on the US to withdraw from South Korea.

then just borrow more money to maintain the presence there.

when US treasury bond yield is reaching 3% and the public debt is more than 20 trillion, who cares about some extra billion $ spent there.

The pressure will come from elements in the South Korean public, and it’s not over any financial issues.

more than 20 trillion public debt as of today, and it is increasing faster. Eventually, the federal revenue is going to be less than the interests that need to be paid annually. what US is going to do about it?

explain to debt collectors that some elements in South Korea want US troops there?

The financial elements are completely irrelevant here. South Korea already pays ~1/3 of the cost of the troops there, and it’s relatively low compared to say the Iraq war.

Roll back some tax cuts if the US is too poor I guess.

This is a trap.

South Korea and the United States are politically weak right now -- not necessarily the leaders, but the political systems are at a low point of unity and resolve. Neither country really wants to deal with North Korea right now. People in each country would like this drama to be over, because it feels dangerous and intractable. The leaders in each country would love to deliver that feeling to us.

Kim Jong-un has an incredibly strong hand. He has nuclear missiles at his disposal, with apparently rapid progress toward increasing their range. He knows that other nations are fearful of those weapons, and that they won't do anything that risks putting them on the receiving end of even one.

We've had one bold historic headline after another now: Kim Jong-un has telegraphed a desire to denuclearize and to end the Korean war. He has raised the hopes of South Koreans and of Americans just enough that they each want a deal now, and their leaders now need to deliver.

But the price has not yet been negotiated.

What will be the price? Will Kim promise to stop further nuclear development? Will Kim promise to stop further missile development? Will Kim promise not to help other states develop nuclear missiles? Will Kim promise not to radically modernize his military in other ways as the floodgates of trade open?

Promises are inexpensive and reversible. Will he actually take any real steps to diminish or eliminate his nuclear and military power? I doubt it. Kim's not an idiot. He only needs to present the illusion.

People in the West seem to believe that Kim has experienced some sort of rebirth as a student of peace and nonviolence of late. But there's been no explanation and no demonstration (to my ears) of where that came from. It's possible perhaps that Xi Jinping whispered wonderful ideas and/or threats in Kim Jong-un's ear when he visited, but that's opaque to us and media I've read seems to be ignorant of such potential influence. If Kim were so serious, we should need him to demonstrate that credibly to us, through actions that are costly for him to take: in particular, pitching this change of vision directly and passionately to the populace of North Korea.

Kim Jong-un wants to get out from under the chokehold of heavy trade sanctions. He wants to be legitimized in the international community as the leader of a real nation. He wants to modernize both his military and his nation and his personal life. He probably dreams of visiting Paris and Manhattan.

It is my belief that he will be able to get these things -- without giving up nuclear weapons, missiles, nor giving up his political or military power over North Korea. From Kim's perspective, democratic politicians are weak and manipulable, and he will find it to be especially true right now.

(edit: s/telescoped/telegraphed/ -- thanks!)

That he's been able to do this with South Korea alone without the US at the table tells you how strong of a hand he has and how weak our hand is.

I think this is a ploy to do two things: 1. Economic growth for North Korea, which has been happened to some extend already. 2. Get the US out of the Korean Peninsula.

A strong economy will allow NK to develop or buy all sorts of updated conventional arms. NK is seriously weak here. Their air force is horribly out of date. I doubt they can actually defeat South Korea in a conventional war even if the US is not helping SK.

Once the US presence is no longer there, it becomes a lot harder for the US to re-enter in times of conflict because now NK can threaten us with nuclear weapons. Most American will not trade Seattle or SF for South Korea.

Unification of Korea is pretty much a non-negotiatable goal for the North Korean regime. It's been their goal since the start and the reason why the leading families in NK support the Kim family.

I would be careful to underestimate the North's ability to fight a war. You don't need cutting edge technology with the sort of topography they've got. Look at a topographic map of North Korea. It's mountain ranges and valleys. Dense veg, steep drops, spots for tunnels, rapid currents. You could put an army from the 50s in there and have a hell of a time getting them to quit.

I don't doubt their ability to defend their own territory and your point about that is correct. However, I don't see South Korea being the aggressor. If there is a war, North Korea would be the aggressor and I doubt their current ability to successfully invade and conquer South Korea. They would have to acquire new conventional capabilities to do that and a viable economy is necessary for that development.

This is what I worry about as well.

To be sure: if this is a good faith approach to Unification, it should be up to the respective peoples to decide what their political fate ultimately is. I don't see the South Koreans willingly wishing to be ruled by the Kim regime.

But if its a ploy to get the US out so that Kim can strong arm the South Koreans... that is bad news.

I think you're exactly right. I see this as the "Peace for Our Time"[1] deal that people will get excited about now, and cause us to take our eye off the real danger. Until tragedy happens.

But maybe I'm just a pessimist.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_for_our_time

There's a big difference: Hitler had the capability to launch a successful aggressive war. Kim, without a doubt, does not. And no amount of military buildup will get him to equal footing with the Western powers poised to massively retaliate if he provokes war.

So what exactly is the tragedy you're talking about? A nuclear attack? That would be suicide.

It's hard to subscribe to predictions that fly in the face of basic principles of international relations.

This is where the nuclear weapons and madman ploy comes in. Once the US exits the Korean peninsula (and really, why is the US there now there is "peace"?), it's a lot harder for us to go back and help South Korea when North Korea and the supposed madman Kim is threatening us with nukes.

"That would be suicide."

This is exactly why he deploys his madman act. You can reason about a reasonable person but a madman introduces an element of randomness. Once you're dealing with randomness, you have to talk in terms of probability. Would the US be willing to take even a 1% chance that he would go that far and launch nukes at us?

Why are you assuming North Korea is insane?

Given the situation they have been in for the past 60 years, and the political climate of the past 17, their behavior has been quite rational.

They're not at all! They put up that act to make people believe they are so that it introduces an element of uncertainty into the calculation. Like the parent said, going to war with the US is suicide, which no rational leader would do but a seemingly irrational/insane leader might. This adds an element of risk to the US and make us think twice about intervening.

The events wont be exactly the same of course. The tragedy I fear is war with China, triggered by North Korean aggression. Both WWI and WWII started in ways that flew in the face of principles of international relations.

> South Korea and the United States are politically weak right now ...

I don't know where you're getting news about Korea, but since his inauguration on May 2017, Moon Jae-In has been consistently enjoying approval rating of 60-70%. Even his party is enjoying ~50% support, while the chief opposition party (the conservative Liberty Korea Party) is struggling at 10-15% (although they do have 116 out of 293 seats at congress).

Moon is politically invincible now.


I can sense the skepticism in the comments, but this is amazing news!

All those people suffering from lack will have a chance to take part in our modern abundance.

I can only imagine what will happen when NK opens it's doors to SK fully. There will be a massive demand for good and services. Exciting times!

From the Guardian, which can't be accused of being a Trump lover:

> This system of indoctrination and propaganda complicates any official announcement of the Trump meeting. An ideological framework must be devised to explain the talks with the enemy; and regardless of how they are presented, there is an uncomfortable margin for the “infallible” leader to be seen to fail in his aims.

> Trump is a volatile opponent who telegraphed his impatience even before the two men fixed a place to talk, warning he would walk away if he thought the preparations weren’t going anywhere.

> But this unpredictability is the reason there are talks at all. Trump’s barrage of verbal and Twitter attacks on North Koreans – which have been reported there – led Pyongyang to question if it was, for the first time in a generation, facing a US president willing to attack them, experts say.

> Officials there have long calculated that no US president would risk lives in Seoul with an attack on the North. But under Trump that is no longer a safe assumption, says Andrei Lankov, professor of Korean Studies at Kookmin University.

> Kim, like his predecessors, has proved adept at manipulating regional and world powers into providing aid and political support while offering little in return. Now Kim may at last be forced into making real changes to stave off looming political and economic crises.


The art of the deal

Peter Zeihan had some really interesting things to say about Kim Jung Un that completely expanded how I viewed NK.


Edit: The gist of the prevailing theory is that in 1994, days before NK was supposed to talk to SK about re-unification, they suffered a coup. Since at least Kim Jung Il's death, Kim Jung Un has been reversing that coup to realize his grandfather's previous plans.

Nixon took the same approach and called it the “Madman Theory”: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madman_theory

As a politician, Trump is a strange hybrid of Nixon and Berlusconi. I don’t think he’s consciously emulating Nixon on this though, he just has similar instincts.

The most efficient way to look crazy is to actually be crazy.

TLDR; when my mom would threatened punishment it was a suggestion, when my dad threatened punishment it was a mandate.

If you're smart about it you don't make threats at all. The threats need to be inferred and the enforcement immediate.

> If you're smart about it you don't make threats at all. The threats need to be inferred and the enforcement immediate.

And how'd that work out for the last however many presidents?

> And how'd that work out for the last however many presidents?

I was referring to raising children.

The recent strike on Syria may have sobered Kim up a bit

Si vis pacem, para bellum.

Is it fair to say that Trump has done more for world peace than Obama now?

Obamas term, while - I guess - good domestically, was an unmitigated disaster globally. It’s been a long time since so many countries were destabilized and so much blood was shed.

Yeah, I'm struggling to think how far back we need to go before Obama to find another president under whose watch countries destabilized and blood was shed. Oh wait, what about the president right before that.


Yes absolutely. It's kind of a joke that Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize.

He needs to drone a few more Americans over seas to beat Obama

It'll be 10 years or more before we can really answer that question. Trump's talks could work out exactly as planned or they could trigger a nuclear war, or anything in between. Were Obama's calls on Egypt/Libya/Tunisa/... the right ones for the sake of the long term? It's hard to say we'll ever know for sure.

Israel and Saudi Arabia are also getting along surprisingly well lately. See e.g. http://www.euronews.com/2017/12/26/view-saudi-israel-allianc...

That's more about counterbalancing Iran in the region and is an "enemy-of-my-enemy" alliance of convenience. The ability to play Iraq and Iran against each other that used to exist went by the wayside when Saddam was toppled and got replaced with nothing.

I don't think we have to wait any longer to say that Libya has been an unalloyed disaster. It hasn't cost the USA as much as e.g. Iraq. However, ours is not the relevant point of view on this, and our actions in Libya certainly have taken the cake in terms of a functioning, slowly-liberalizing authoritarian government (i.e., "a government") ruling in mostly peaceful fashion over mostly-content adequately-fed-and-doctored people being replaced with... utter omnicidal Mad-Max bedlam. Reporters don't go there anymore, so we have to infer how bad it is, from how many people are attempting to swim to Italy. We did this for no reason at all. The silly pretexts parroted at the time were flimsier than Saddam's putative WMDs.

Obama didn't really do much do justify his world peace prize. Surely getting this far deserves a little credit, no? Or are we all supposed to be of "everything Trump does is bad" line of thinking on here as well? (Looking at the down votes on my original comment, apparently so).

Does a guy who does unhinged and angry rants on Fox and Friends seem like someone who's in diplomatic control of the situation?

Well, he's making a great showing at these peace talks and—wait, what's that? Apparently, I've been misinformed, and he's not at them at all.


Quite a few leaders are giving Trump credit.

Because they all know the same thing: flattery works wonders on Trump.

It's hard to believe them when Trump was doing infantile stuff on Twitter about nuclear buttons.

Trump got a gold star for showing up because it costs those leaders literally nothing to pay him lip service, but I think that's it.

Though I think bloombert doesn't carry sensational headlines, the report of the same event from "The Economist" is rather muted (https://www.economist.com/news/asia/21741238-moon-jae-and-ki...), and mentions that results of the meet are insubstantial.

What are the economic implications of a possible/eventual/inevitable reunification scenario that just become a bit more realistic? South Korea is already an economic powerhouse in its own right. I'm wondering more from the point of view of an investor - the public markets don't appear to be particularly swayed by the prospects, probably because the scenario is still farfetched and decades away, if possible.

You can take a look at what happened after German unification to get an idea of what it would look like.

To be sure, this is a frequent topic of discussion in South Korea, and this precise situation has been studied in some detail. The consensus seems to be to NOT do what the Germans did: It has been economically prohibitive, and East Germany is still noticeably behind the West in economic development. And the economic difference between the two Koreas at the moment is far, far greater today than the difference between the two Germany's in the 1990's. There are also cultural factors: North Korean workers are used to working under Communism, will they accept working under a capitalist elite?

That being said, a thought experiment with a Unified Korea is rather interesting. North Korean labor would perhaps be cheaper; South Korean companies could outsource manufacturing to the North instead of to China and still remain globally competitive. The North has vast mineral resources which could be exploited. A land route to China would increase Korean-Chinese trade immensely. So generally it would look very good economically.

This is just a PR show... the war isn’t over until the NK population is free

The war is over when the people who would fight it say it's over. If the US and ROK are willing to leave Kim in power, then it's over regardless of the freedom of the DPRK population.

Just like we are not at war with Iran, or Russia, or Eritrea, or a dozen other dictatorships around the world.

We're in a proxy war with Russia/Iran in Syria.

> This is just a PR show

What a useless comment. How would we distinguish a PR move from a real one at this stage? Any contact is better than no contact, it's a step forward.

Can it fall apart, Of course! I'm pretty sure that is clear to everyone here...

Sometimes perception of something happening is all you need to make something happen. See: Crypto prices

That's a... very American statement. USA has a history of forcing their view of freedom on other nations, whether they want to or not.

By which country's standards is North Korea free?

Edit: Other than North Korea.

North Korea's.

I had this argument with someone the other day, that because non-western countries aren't western doesn't mean their societies aren't free/advanced. I don't know how someone can argue that getting tortured or killed for your beliefs, or being treated as basically a possession, or any of these things is "free, just not in a western morals way".

That's an argument of no human rights.. whatever anyone does is now "free".

What about the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Countries have repeatedly pledged to uphold it.

Just a couple of recent examples:

In 2000, the Millennium Declaration says "We resolve therefore: To respect fully and uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." It was unanimously adopted by the UN.

NK wasn't there.. but they were at the World Summit a few years later... where a similar statement was again adopted unanimously:

We reaffirm the solemn commitment of our States to fulfil their obligations to promote universal respect for and the observance and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in accordance with the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other instruments relating to human rights and international law. The universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question.

There is a definition of freedom that everyone, including NK, agrees with.. It's defined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yes, agreed. I was arguing with someone on whether homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt, and one of their arguments was "no, because many countries in Asia and Africa don't let them either". My response was "if you're bringing up those countries as examples to follow, you need to reevaluate your position".

Many people think of “freedom” in collectivist terms. North Korea isn’t controlled by any foreign power, so they have that form of freedom.

You (and I) probably don’t think too much of that compared with the sort of freedom that lets you criticize the government without your entire family being sent to a camp, but not everybody thinks that way.

I would argue that they're pretty much controlled by one foreign power, China, given that they're heavily dependent on imports from China because of the sanctions.

So if they enter into treaties that lead to the lifting of sanctions, they could actually gain freedom (from China) by giving up other freedoms (to stockpile nukes etc.).

They might argue freedom in the context of a global imperialist hegemony of the US.

No dude. The universal declaration of human rights.


I don't think that it's ever easy to determine what certain 'nation' wants. Fortunately, Korea, just like Germany before it, is an excellent opportunity to compare two different options: one with "American view of freedom" and one without.

Now, do you think that koreans as a whole prefer the northern or southern option?

> American view of freedom

You've got to be kidding.

Personally, I know no better approximation of my concept of 'freedom' than a traditionally American one.

At least as of mid-last-century, Koreans as a whole prefer a united, mildly communist Korea that doesn't need to turn into a reclusive militarized Korea to defend itself from American aggression and can freely participate on the world stage. South Korea only came into existence because the US was terrified of more countries' populations deairing communism. Had the US's military fortunes been a bit different, it would have been a Vietnam or a China or a Cuba or something.

Now, if the world's greatest superpower is stationing soldiers in your country for decades and demanding performative capitalism for your country to not be constrained by tariffs and sanctions and travel bans, you're going to be real excited about performative capitalism.

Freedom undoubtedly is a spectrum and something that is worked towards, not just attained with the flip of a light switch. It’s also forever a process, so let us wish for NKs people that this is one early step on the journey

I might agree but this is monumental that a North Korean leadership crossed the line. So while there is PR involved it is still historic and represents a real change.

Likely it is because North Korea feels they have a real bargaining position with their ability to use nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Combined with a US administration which didn't roll over and it all sets the stage for both sides saving face

The big question is if China would allow it.

The answer 60 years ago was a violent "no".

If North Korea remains its own state buy they achieve some sense of peace, China would be happiest. The US would have little justification for keeping their military on the peninsula and would have to find new justification for the size of their military presence in Japan. China would still have a buffer between themselves and a US ally.

If they somehow joined into one country (doesn’t seem likely near term but let’s say it happens) the same element with the US military withdrawal remains. But China loses the buffer zone. They’d be less happy but probably not unhappy.

The rhetoric out of NK, especially since they developed nukes, could not have made China happy. All it did was help justify the US military presence in the region. This harms some of China’s objectives and also keeps the US physically and politically present in what they see as their part of the world. Peace here could strengthen Chinese political influence, especially if they can claim and justify that they were key players in achieving this peace.

The most likely path forward is for North Korea to develop using the Chinese model without all the Chinese mistakes (eg. learn all the lessons that China learned the hard way without making the same mistakes). This path forward would likely satisfice all parties, though China would probably come out a bit ahead in the grand scheme of things.

China only cares that the US troops don’t move further up north, NK is a buffer for them if that buffer isn’t needed (as the reason for their presence will be gone) then it won’t be as much of a problem.

In fact this might be better for them since it reduces the justification of deploying US ABM systems in their back yard.

Currently the US can station all the missile defense which also can be used for anti-satellite purposes and no one can bat an eye as long as NK continues to pollute the Sea of Japan with hydrazine on a regular basis (at this point I think the true goal of their missile program is to wage economic war on Japan by killing all the Tuna with rocket fuel).

Just a matter of time once relations are normalized and the population starts communicating freely.

Sure, but denuclearization is a big deal.

It'll be interesting to see if the removal of the DMZ will result in mass migration to the more affluent south. I wonder if they will have NIMBY debates similar to those we have about the Central American migration to the USA and Canada.

What changed that North Korea would be serious this time? I can't think of much. On the contrary, they seem stronger. Maybe they feel they have enough to negotiate more favorable terms than ever before. Maybe the borders have become so porous to outside information coming in that they feel change is inevitable so they'd do better to be in front of it.

I can't get past that on a personal level, the decision-makers, in particular Kim Jong Un's family, are responsible for many people's suffering and deaths, which I would think would make them fear too much freedom among the survivors. People hunted Nazis for generations. Wouldn't the North Korean decision-makers fear being hunted?

Meanwhile, China has been invaded more than once from the Korean peninsula. How willing will they be to lose a buffer between themselves and U.S. military bases?

> I can't get past that on a personal level, the decision-makers, in particular Kim Jong Un's family, are responsible for many people's suffering and deaths, which I would think would make them fear too much freedom among the survivors. People hunted Nazis for generations. Wouldn't the North Korean decision-makers fear being hunted?

My own background is Ireland, where the peace deal included an amnesty that has largely been respected. People from the same organisations that killed and tortured now walk the corridors of power joking with each other about who killed who's cousins; plenty of citizens aren't too happy about that, but twenty years of peace beats the alternatives.

Ireland also provides a counterpoint if you look a little further back in history. The Irish civil war didn’t end particularly cleanly and had very long lasting repercussions in modern Irish politics

The Irish diaspora and its effects are also a valuable though horribly neglected bit of history, which has a direct bearing on the immigration and civil rights crises of today.

Irish immigrant slums in New York and London were once so problematic that police wouldn't go there unless in numbers. There were criminal/terrorist gangs who enacted their own law. The filth was quite notable. In the history, you can find parallels to many of today's issues. Also relevant: In the early 1800's, the typical Irish peasant had only 1/2 to 1/4th the wealth of the contemporaneous US slave!


It has been compared with South Africa, which actually had a "Truth and reconciliation" commission to find out what happened. The approach in Ireland was to simply draw a line under everything instead. Which means that the dismantling of the institutions of injustice that produced the conflict only went so far - reform of RUC into PSNI, but no further into Special Branch or the other security services.

Assuming I understood you correctly, I'd prefer if the "draw a line under everything" approach happened in Poland, wrt. who did or didn't support the socialists during 60s - 80s. It's not even about violence and death, just plain old politics. In the political sphere, for the last 2+ decades everyone has been combing over the archives to find some dirt on everyone else. And the media spammed us with that as well. I wish they'd just forget about that and get on with building the future of the country.

I'm not disputing your main point, but I do have a relevant sidenote:

Like most politically charged post-regime-change trials, the T&RC in South Africa is widely regarded by knowledgeable parties as mostly a sham/show trial. You can read more about this in e.g. R.W. Johnson's books such as [0].

For context, Johnson is a Rhodes Scholar, self-avowed communist, and longtime ANC sympathizer (since long before '91), which IMHO lends his few critical-of-ANC opinions mainstream credibility.

If you disagree with him for some reason, it's easy to find other observers who fit your political taste to corroborate his claims.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Long-Will-South-Africa-Survive-ebook/...

There was blood on everybody's hands in Ireland though. Hard to make the same case for N. Korea.

Everyone? I’m pretty sure most people (from both ethnic groups or religions or whatever you want to call them) were civilians...

Everyone who participated in the conflict, yes. The IRA and UDA/UFF were both unquestionably guilty of committing atrocities during the Troubles. The North Korean situation is much different -- one-sided persecution of the masses by the ruling class. The GDR would perhaps be a better analogy. It's hard to envision an end to this situation that does not involve Kim Jong Un and thousands of others on the gallows, which is why I absolutely do not believe in the sincerity of these overtures.

Don't forget about the sanctions.

Good Point!

LOL WUT? The USA literally ran out of bombing targets because they flattened North Korea during the war.

There's a point here, but please don't make it this way, i.e. in the internet trolling style. It guarantees worse discussion.


The only significant thing to change was American policy. The admin put great on China to end smuggling goods across the border and ending the hijinks in the high seas, basically putting an end to doing an end around sanctions as well as the bluster.

The South Koreans indeed mention that the US played a major role in having this happen.

It would be cosmically ironic if peace is achieved in this instance given the prev admin winning the peace Nobel while achieving no peace at all.

>The only significant thing to change was American policy.

The North Korean government has a small but credible nuclear deterrent in the form of a warhead stockpile + ICBMs. That's only happened in the last year or two.

But they’ve had warheads and “scuds” (with conv explosives) for decades. Their man bargaining chips were SK and JP populations.

My take is Am pressure on China turned China against supporting NK antics, in combination with the new Am admin to willingness to engage (diplomatically and otherwise) resulted in NK feeling alone and unprotected and thus willing to cut a deal for peace. Time will tell.

North Korea's first nuclear test was only a little over ten years ago, and it's likely to only be in the last couple of years they've neared any sort of miniaturization sufficient to fit one onto a missile.

Fair enough. Yet they’ve had Katyusha style launchers pointing at Seoul for decades capable of destroying it (also assuring they get destroyed in retaliation by Am troops).

So, the threat of millions of lives has existed since the detente. The main thing changing is the willingness of Am to apply true pressure and pass that pressure on to “friends” of NK as well as engage diplomatically. NK has not suffered from not having a credible MAD option.

But it’s not a done deal. It’ll take time.

It seems in these comments people are resistant to credit Ams because that would admit the current admin’s strategy is better than the prev admin’s failed strategy and people are loath to do that for political reasons.

I don't think the NK desire for nuclear deterrence has ever been about deterring SK - as you note, they've already got plenty of conventional deterrence there - but SK's US allies.

"If you hit our leadership with a bunker buster we'll wipe out LA" is something new for them to be able to credibly claim, and likely makes them feel quite a bit more comfortable.

> It seems in these comments people are resistant to credit Ams because that would admit the current admin’s strategy is better than the prev admin’s failed strategy and people are loath to do that for political reasons.

It may be a better strategy, but I think we'll only know that years from now. Lots of potential potholes lie ahead.

Hey have a hell of a lot of artillery pointing south too.

Obviously there are many factors that brought this about, but even South Korea's foreign minister specifically said Trump gets the credit for this:


That foreign leaders have figured out praising Trump for things is a useful tactic isn't shocking.

edit: Downvote all you like. If you don't think foreign leaders interacting with the US have a "praise Trump for something" note on their briefings these days, I dunno what to tell you. Especially when you're as closely allied with the US as SK is. Playing to his ego is going to be a common tactic for anyone who wants something from the US.

We do know some one in US put a lot of effort, esp. was behind sending three aircraft carriers into the region. Has done enough posturing but had incredibly held back so the situation does not escalate and talked with Chinese to impose and/or stick with sanctions. I do not know who it was, its most likely a huge team of people. All this happened after the State department was purged of his high level officials.

What I know is this, there is a huge team of American civilian and military that worked hard to tackle the DPRK problem and have achieved or at least partially achieved their objective. At the very top level these men and women are lead by one guy, Donald J Trump.

If the objective is "have a flashy headline", yes.

If the objective is a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, I'm not so sure.

Here's why: https://twitter.com/QiZHAI/status/989795774975242241

Do you think it is possible for Trump to achieve anything, or is literally everything he comes near doomed to failure? Serious question, since it isn't clear from what you've written.

Trump has already achieved plenty domestically (tax bill, successful supreme court appointment, disrupting regulation efforts at the EPA and FCC etc) but I can't say I see much evidence that this development can be attributed to Trump. Of course, nothing happens on the geopolitical stage without some influence from the U.S, but the evidence I do see suggests that this is mostly a combination of factors having to do with South Korean leadership and other recent positive developments between SK and NK during the Olympics. If it comes out that Trump had a specific role in these negotiations then I think he deserves recognition for that, but as of now I haven't seen any indication of that.

I absolutely believe it's possible for Trump to achieve things. (Good, and bad.)

I'll believe North Korea's promises when they're fulfilled. This isn't the first time relations have thawed or they've promised to get rid of their nuclear program, after all.

Your words that foreign leaders are being dishonest - is that speculation, or a statement of fact? It's not entirely clear from your words, but the context suggests you believe it is a statement of fact. I would think would be considered proper to make it clear.

Trying to be as objective as I can be, it's just hard to see a path (let alone follow it, and think it's reasonable) from Trump to this apparent detente. To be honest the things that Trump did cited in that CNN article are laughable...

Seems to me that, if this normalization is for real, Kim Jong-un deserves the overwhelming amount of credit, despite obviously being the head of a horrific regime.

EDIT: Downvotes but no responses, lovely.

I agree, Kim is the puppet master here. Everyone else is just an actor. My opinion is he wants to start mining and selling its huge amount of rare earth minerals with the sanctions lifted. I'm not sure at all he's really interested in reunification. Something like the current Chinese model would fit perfectly his ambitions. And keep him in power for long time.

Reunification certainly seems farfetched.

Generally I think people in the US just are oblivious to the shift in the power dynamic, and the position that Kim has successfully put himself in.

> The only significant thing to change was American policy.

Sure, if you ignore the fact that South Korea had a massive political scandal resulting in impeachment of the President and switch in ruling party.


SK has ongoing scandals, every admin. Their foreign minister, I imagine, knows SK politics, they are crediting the American administration for having this happen.

The scandal led to the election of a different party in South Korea, replacing the conservative militant party with one that's more conciliatory to North Korea. So yes the recent Presidential scandal definitely had an effect.

The foreign minister is likely smart enough to fluff up the leader of their most critical ally, regardless of how much they feel he contributed internally, and especially when you know that specific foreign leader responds really well to praise.

Every country has their scandals, but let's not pretend this one didn't change the political landscape a bit when the leadership swung from one party to another.

This mindset is so insane to me. You've got one of the biggest foreign policy wins in a long time staring you in the face, and you've got the Korean President, the Japanese President, and the Korean foreign minister all agreeing that the Us Government had a strong hand in making all of this happen.

Somehow that isn't good enough to admit that maybe the country with the biggest military, the largest GDP, and a president who has at least claimed committment to helping find peace in Korea could have had something to do with finding peace in Korea.

What would it take? If Kim Jong Un himself writes a book titled "It was all Trump", then every person in South Korea, China, and Japan all write personal letters to Trump and the American people thanking them, are people still going to entertain these wild conspiracy theories that somehow everybody in the world is lying, and that they have some secret knowledge on this topic?

Governments, politicians, business leaders, etc. regularly say things out loud to generate a desired perception among the public, when the real underlying reasons are actually different. This is not rare or exceptional — it's the norm. It's called PR. Every public statement is crafted this way.

Thus, every statement by an official should be looked at with a critical eye, and we the public should be analyzing the pieces on the board and the incentives at play to try to deduce the truth for ourselves. Again, this is not rare or exceptional — it's the norm, especially on Hacker News. I'm not sure what you find so insane about this.

What's insane is just believing everything at face value with no understanding of the reasoning behind it. If Yahoo announced a partnership with Facebook and talked about how great a guy Zuckerberg was, would you expect everyone on HN to roll over and say, "It must be true"? Doubtful.

"Trump helped," is not a convincing statement alone. It doesn't imply anything more than, "Trump told us to say he helped." Rather, pointing to specific differences, concessions, deals, etc. that Trump made vs his predecessors would be convincing.

>The only significant thing to change was American policy

Straw man - the above was just objecting to this characterisation of recent SK political changes as insignificant

>The foreign minister is likely smart enough to fluff up the leader of their most critical ally, regardless of how much they feel he contributed internally, and especially when you know that specific foreign leader responds really well to praise.

This is what I'm replying to.

Can you clarify what you object to in that statement?

I think we've all been in a scenario where a manager or group project member gets praised for all their hard work, when everyone in the room knows they didn't do very much.

It's entirely possible this is what South Korea is doing here. Trump's well known to be easy to negotiate with if his ego is stroked, and quick to anger if it isn't. SK risks nothing by praising him, even if it's not fully warranted... and diplomats are pretty used to mouthing bullshit.

The only significant thing to change was Chinese enforcement of US-led UN sanctions (which the US has been introducing before the UNSC for years)... And is more likely due to North Korea's overt militancy in the past year.

The South Korean attribution of credit to the US should really be seen as part of the larger goal of detente, and not an independent analysis...

The election of a new dovish South Korean president a year ago would seem to be even more significant than any change in US policy.

Trump & Kim Jung Un have the highest odds (2/1) of winning the next Nobel peace prize according to bookies:


I never really know how to read these betting sites, but what I see there is 4/1 for Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In.

This is such an interesting problem. I don't see any of these people being suitable candidates, but if this detente is fully realized then you can't ignore it.

Consider for a second that Reagan wasn't given the Nobel Peace Prize (Gorbachev was) for the peaceful end of the Cold War. I find the "Reagan Victory School" argument far more compelling than any argument for Trump in this case.

It will be interesting to see what the Nobel Committee decides.

There is no way the Nobel prize people are going to hand a Nobel prize to Trump and Kim Jung Un. Trump is embarrassment to the world and Kim Jung Un literally has killed 10's of thousands of people to stay in power.

better to give the prize to someone like obama, who accomplished nothing at all to deserve it, but gave people the warm fuzzies for not being george bush

False dichotomy. It's a fair to say that Obama did nothing to deserve a peace award, but obviously Trump and Kim don't deserve one either.

Nope. What changed was Kim got his credible deterrence and the much more pragmatic Moon replaced Park. Trump helped in that he got out of the way and may have offered significant concessions under the table; with that opening everybody including China jumped on it. Sanctions are for public consumption. The realty is it's anybody's guess how this ends, but if it goes the way it appears then Kim has won strategically.

> but if it goes the way it appears then Kim has won strategically

As is probably the only pragmatic way a deal was ever going to get done. And realistically, NK is so impoverished that a big win for him, particularly image wise, is a very small price for the rest of us to pay. I'd like to see some strategic global praise (and from Trump) lavished on Kim Jong Un, highlighting the "difficult position due to no one in particular's fault" he inherited so the NK population who do have an outside window to the world can start grass roots rumors that this is the right direction for the country.

Nazis were a special case. Most of the time those who served a tyrannical government get to go on with their lives and adapt to the circumstances. For example, Russia’s current ersatz Tsar is a former Soviet KGB agent.

The NK leadership could be envisioning a state like Russia with a market economy and many theoretical freedoms, but practically controlled by a mob-like oligarchy that entwines personal and military interests.

Yep, even in WW2. Japanese committed equally gross atrocities. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731 The Americans granted them immunity.

Unit 731 were granted immunity because the Americans wanted access to the research which was apparently rigorous and useful. There were Nazi scientists who got similar treatment (Operation Paperclip). A better comparison would be with the Japanese and German political leadership. Japanese leaders such a Tojo and others were executed for war crimes.

practically controlled by a mob-like oligarchy that entwines personal and military interests

Don't forget industrial. Pretty much the slowly improving state of humanity since the mid 1800's. The US powers that be had a stranglehold on the media since the 1980's. It's just that the disruption in the media industry has finally started showing the cracks.


My guess is that their nuclear program is a failure. While this collapse may not be the absolute cause, I'm assuming they've had much bigger related issues, and are no longer able to sustain their threats. Combine that with the number of sanctions on them, they really have no choice.



They may have suddenly lost the ability to use their regular test site due to collapse.

They have lost their test site because they demonstrated thermonuclear capabilities. NK is a nice position with their nuclear program, because they demonstrated last year that they have the ability to set of a thermonuclear explosion and the ability the launch intercontinental missiles. From the point of view of nuclear strategy that is a win, because even if they have problems with reliability, nobody is gambling a major city on a 1 in 10-ish chance that the weapons work.

I keep seeing that people think a test site collapse caused this, but if that was the case it isn't like they were going to suddenly be invaded. I think if anything, something internally was to cause this negotiation of peace.

The Chinese may have pressured North Korea to halt testing because of the potential leaks. North Korea can tunnel under another mountain but the risks will be the same. North Korea is dependent on China for trade. Cut that off and North Korea eventually collapses.

Regardless of motivations, if this is a sincere move towards peace then it is a good thing for the world.

I think Kim is paranoid and scared. Maybe someone convinced him that he's the next Saddam, so he's getting ahead of it to avoid the same fate?

Maybe he's just human and rationally wants himself and his family to get out alive? Anyone with a brain and a little knowledge of history can see how easily things can go badly for a dictator and his family.

If Kim Jong-Un can pull things off right, he and his familiy will be able to live out their lives without having to fear being deposed and murdered, probably keeping enough wealth to live in luxury for generations, and maybe going down in history as a well-regarded peacemaking hero on top of it all.

It's impossible to know for certain, but perhaps having invested so much in nuclear weapons and finding that it only made the US more belligerent, they realized that they had to shift their strategy? Or maybe they've been waiting for the opportune moment to extend the olive branch? Become a nuclear power so that they could negotiate from a position of power and get better terms?

It's not that complicated. To get the best concessions you come with biggest chips of your own to trade. Even if NK's intention was to negotiate from day one, they would have gone for nuclear weapons first, given that prior negotiations did not net them satisfactory concessions. What's changed is that they believe they have big enough chips now and Trump is high-variance enough that the gamble is worth it.

So... like Star Trek 6, except where Sulu isn’t right there to notice the sudden loss of the enemy homeworld?

Praxis wasn't the homeworld. It housed their key energy generating facility.

Good to be able to contribute something substantive to an HN discussion :)

That actually makes it more analogous, since this mountain base was a key component of their ability to make war.

> On the contrary, they seem stronger.

I think this is it. After all this time, they were never going to surrender; it has to be something that can be pitched as a voluntary agreement between equals that doesn't compromise NK sovereignty.

It can only be "the end of the beginning". The war isn't even formally over yet. I wouldn't expect elections in Kim's lifetime, but perhaps he can become merely an ordinary dictator like Turkmenistan.

> [...]something that can be pitched as a voluntary agreement between equals[...]

This is true in most negotiations, but something we tend to forget. Forced acceptance of an ultimatum when one party is at a significant disadvantage is the perfect environment to breed subversion and partisan resistance. The stakes may differ, but it fits human nature whether in matters of global politics or at a personal level, for instance, negotiating the scope of the next software release.

A possibly highly irrational US president in a world where other US ground conflicts are winding down? I wonder this too. I expect we won't really know until we have a decade or two of hindsight to try to understand.

Irrational behavior from world leaders can be effective.


Not saying this is going on necessary, but from the game theoretic point of view it makes sense.

Trump has been talking to Kissinger quite a bit.

Is it possible he's not highly irrational at all and you're projecting your own fears onto him?

It is possible, but extremely unlikely given the evidence.

They said the same thing about Reagan, and he brought down the Soviets in a similar way.

It seems that no amount of evidence is enough for some people.

Reagan didn't: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/09/le... The SU was brought down by Gorbachev, economic stagnation, the Afghan war and alcoholism -- not Reagan.

Ya Reagan just took credit for it. They took down the wall 2 years after his "tear down this wall speech." It's a myth.

Reagan didn't. The Soviet Union crashed their own empire. This myth of him being a fiscal conservative while outspending the ussr on misguided military programs is something that needs to go away.

You mean evidence like this?

"South Korea’s Foreign Minister tells me in Seoul that “clearly credit goes to President Trump” for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table."



Some more evidence, this time of fear and projection: "Why Kanye West's Pro-Trump Tweets Are a Real Threat"


This is the secret genius hypothesis. I don't give it much credit, considering how the administration is flailing on almost every other front. It is possible that all of this was Trump being very clever. But it is as easily explained by him being an impulsive fool, and that explains all the rest as well. But if he keeps on making big foreign policy gains like this, then I may have to reevaluate.

FWIW, this definitely caused me to up my estimation of him. It went from "absolutely dismal," to "very bad." I'll also note that it's just a bit too early to tell whether this will ultimately result in a good outcome. Shaking hands is a big step. But actions talk louder than photo ops.

If you ignore his tweeting, which frankly, is embarrassing more than it's informative, and get your news from somewhere other than CNN, you might realize that Trump's actually getting a lot of good stuff done.

Trump confronted Kim, which was different, whether you think that was rational or not really depends on whether you think that was dangerous or stupid or a reasonable response to someone threatening the US.


It won't, because America has a habit of doing American things whenever it has too much economic anxiety.

What are these "American things" that we do when we have economic anxiety?

Electing our first black president after the great financial crisis?

Bailing Europe out of WW2 after the depression?

> Let's hope Trump weakening the US politically and economically plays out well for the world.

Well even CNN gave him credit for getting the two Koreas to talk and possibly end the 70 year old war:


"Clearly, credit goes to President Trump," Kang told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Seoul. "He's been determined to come to grips with this from day one."

So in this case political "weakness" does seem to play well for the world?

> I can't get past that on a personal level, the decision-makers, in particular Kim Jong Un's family, are responsible for many people's suffering and deaths, which I would think would make them fear too much freedom among the survivors. People hunted Nazis for generations. Wouldn't the North Korean decision-makers fear being hunted?

Many Nazis not only walked away scot-free but even held positions of power after WW2. See Hans Globke, who had part in the Nuremberg Race Laws back when he worked as Ministerialdirigent in the Office for Jewish Affairs in the Ministry of Interior. And after WW2? Secretary of State and Chief of Staff of the German Chancellery in West Germany from 28 October 1953 to 15 October 1963. That kind of career was not a rarity.

North Korea was always completely driven by internal politics, that's what happens in a nation that completely isolates itself from its neighbors.

So it stands to reason that its internal political climate finally worked its way around to peace and trade.

And the geopolitical utility of buffer states has been steadily eroding over the last few decades.

I think China had a private conversation with him and told him, in direct terms, he needed to start playing well with others. The risk to China was just too great, given their proximity.

I believe they have been under really tough sanctions. Maybe this triggered change?

Yes, the sanctions strangled the North Korean economy and they were actually enforced this time around. China had too much pressure from the US to violate the sanctions.

Kim probably felt that his rule was coming to an end if he didn't cave in.

> What changed that North Korea would be serious this time?

Four things in my opinion.

1) China summoned North Korea to meet after their nuclear test site collapsed. That much is known factually. China had drawn a public redline, about the risk of their nuclear program harming Chinese people, from fallout reaching across the border. The collapsed mountain is speculated to be at high risk for leaking fallout and that it may have left a chimney. China publicly warned North Korea on this prior to the mountain collapse. It's very likely that when China summoned North Korea afterward, they were given an intimidating ultimatum.

2) There's nowhere left for North Korea to go. Kim got his nukes, a lot of them apparently. Now what? Nukes don't do anything for developing your country. They won't convince the world to get rid of the sanctions, they won't force the US to give you a lot of trade or money.

3) North Korea must see that the US is able to massively trade with other formerly hostile Communist nations in Asia, such as Vietnam and China. The US fought a horrific war with Vietnam, not dissimilar to that of North Korea. Now the US and Vietnam are large trading partners, and the US just floated an aircraft carrier next to its shores on a military buddy-buddy mission. It's impossible that Kim could see that all occurring and not understand there can be a different future.

4) North Korea can't compete in any regard militarily outside of nuclear weapons. They're 40-60 years behind the US and South Korea. That's because they're so extraordinarily poor. They do not have the resources to wage a competitive traditional war with advanced nations. You know what's great for fixing that? A dramatically bigger economy. They have a ~$25 billion economy today. You know what would be a better security context if you're them? Having a $250 billion economy, lots of money to modernize the military, lots of money for military R&D, lots of money for cultivating education domestically, and still having the same nuclear know-how to re-arm with nukes if necessary. It's the ideal outcome if you're Kim Jong Un - you plausibly remain the dictator for life as in China with Mao or Xi, and you dramatically bolster your economy.

I would expand and point 1 and say that the whole situation was also starting to draw too much military hardware to SK, Japan, and US bases. 3 Carrier battle groups were starting to partol the South China sea. China is not ready for a major conflict on its border. NK was becoming a liability in more than just a mountain collapse.

I'm going to guess the sanctions were actually biting the people in the upper echelons of NK leadership. Probably due to the fact that the Chinese were actually helping out in enforcing the sanctions on their border with NK. I've read that North Korea is run kind of like a feudal society, so long as Kim Jong can keep the military leaders happy with luxury goods and keep the military relatively well cared for. Once that stops happening, it can probably cause some extra anxiety for Kim Jong Un.

Russian and Chinese smugglers were specifically targeted with sanctions and asset freezing.


Combination of trump’s unpredictability, being able to negotiate from a position of strength and a South Korean leader who wants to pursue peace.

A lot of Americans are giving Trump the props on this one. But what about Xi Jinping? He just recently secured his position, just met with Kim Jog Un and has the most vested interest in cooling off NK. He has a brand new naval fleet asserting dominance over the South China Sea.

I think Xi Jinping is quietly going to allow Trump to take the public credit. And meanwhile Xi is going to build a new bridge into Korea based around Capitalism with Chinese characteristics.

I think we'll need to look back and reflect in 10 years to see if Korea has moved closer to USA or closer to China before the real credit can be given.

I expect the reason for the public response is largely thanks to the media reaction a year ago when everyone predicted that Trump would bring in a nuclear third world war. People put forward the dooms day clock, but the result today is very much the opposite.

When people look back in 10 years I suspect that this will be the main story, and the China angle taking a large backseat position. When people make bold predictions and the opposite happens then that make for a better story than details of geopolitical results.

Not everyone. The status-quo wasn’t working and Trump said he would use China to get to NK even in the campaign. It appears he may have done it.

This does put egg smack on the face of a lot of people though so I fully expect Trump’s role to be downplayed as much as possible. I’m already hearing and reading Trump had little/nothing to do with it but that’s ok, peace is more important than credit, and the American people can judge for themselves what happened.

> I expect the reason for the public response is largely thanks to the media reaction a year ago when everyone predicted that Trump would bring in a nuclear third world war. People put forward the dooms day clock, but the result today is very much the opposite.

...Except for his continuing antagonism of Russia (A nuclear power that, unlike North Korea, is capable of a global nuclear war) in Syria.

Which, I suppose, nobody expected, but for a different reason.

China wont let 2 Koreas unite as you suggested.

Unless, US withdraw their military presence. And US wont let that happen.

It's now in the hands of NK dictator to maneuverer between the two most powerful nations on this planet. (The SK president is not too much better than US puppet, and probably wont have much wiggle room).

Recall Xi had Kim over for dinner a few weeks ago. This is Xi signaling to the world and his internal constituents that he can exert soft diplomatic control of Asian satellites.

Kim definitely shows the prowess to profit from these 2 countries. I am very eager to see what he can pull off.

As much as I desire democracy and power to everyone, these kind of powerful people conflict is so tense and entertaining.

With all the nukes and missiles, Kim pressed for better terms.

The end of war, os innevitable, this year, or years to come, and he knows he can win this war. But at least he can go down with more in his pockets.

On the other hand there's this: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43894394 They'll be out of the test grounds for a while. And it's not like their launches went great.

What changed? Nothing.. China is slowly but steadily working on its plan to push the US as far away from their borders as possible. Next step Afganistan or Taiwan.

I think it is completely because of Trump. He is unpredictable. He is in charge of a nation with the capability to carry out his threats. He talked to North Korea in the sort of bombastic way they talked to the U.S. for decades. This was a sudden change for the U.S. and certainly was unnerving to North Korea.

I think North Korea must be quite weak too. They don’t appear stronger to me but I’m no expert on the matter. I wonder how much longer that regime can maintain power. It’s lasted a lot longer than I thought it would be able to so there must be a high level of resiliency in terms of preventing rebellion and regime collapse.


Perhaps you should reevaluate things. It appears your strong, anti-Trump feelings may be clouding your judgment. Trump is a terrible President. He is an emotionally insecure person. He is consumed with a fear of narcissistic injury. He lies constantly. He is a terrible human being. But he is not always wrong.

There have been benefits due to his presidency.

Such as?

In what follows I might be wrong on everything. It's just my opinion and I'm not an expert in these matters. The broader issue to me is the seeming inability of people to see any benefits from those in power with politics we don't share. We had 8 years of idiots saying Obama was a muslim and that he did nothing good. I don't want to be like those idiots. I want to try to evaluate things on their own merits. Is it really feasible to think that there is absolutely nothing positive in what Trump has done? I think it is borderline fanaticism to think in such a way.

Positives of Trump:

Apparent North Korean desire to make peace. Nato countries starting to realize that they can't forever rely on America to disproportionately defend them. Same for Japan. This may lead to the U.S. being able/willing to cut back on defense spending at some time in the future. Trump's rhetoric on trade deals seem like they may end up generating results in the form of cracking down on abuses of the system. Other countries are realizing the U.S. is not as stable as it once seemed and the over reliance on the Pax Americana may come to an end. I think this is a good thing.

By proposing major cuts to non-defense related federal programs there's a possibility that power will shift back toward states. Northern and west coast states largely prop up the southern states and Republican leaning states. There's going to be a shift in outlook on the issue of states rights if Mississippi, for instance, realizes that they may not be able to rely on federal funds to prop it up. In the coming years we'll see more left leaning people start using "states rights" as justification for policies and right leaning people will start shifting toward more federal power. The wealthy states ought to be advocating for decentralization of federal power since too much of their money goes toward the backwards states. I think that is a good thing.

I strongly doubt it has anything to do with Trump or the US. NK has been thumbing its nose at the US for decades in spite of all the embargoes and sanctions. And Trump has not done anything significant - he's just full of bluster and hot air which anyone outside of the US (and most of the US too) know.

This has everything to do with NK and regional politics. I wouldn't be surprised if this has more to do with China seeing an opportunity to force the US off the Korean peninsula under the guise of a peace treaty and they are using NK to achieve this aim.

> I strongly doubt it has anything to do with Trump or the US.

Why so strong a doubt though? South Korea's officials say "Clearly, credit goes to President Trump". One would think SK foreign minister would have some insight into the process...

> And Trump has not done anything significant - he's just full of bluster and hot air which anyone outside of the US (and most of the US too) know.

It is interesting that just a few months ago everyone was sure he was going to start a war in the Korean peninsula and it wasn't just hot air.



As soon as they started talking about peace, it is back to being hot air again and have nothing to do with it?

We could at least say perhaps it had a bad influence and we would have seen peace sooner, but it's really hard to say "he had no influence" at this point.

> One would think SK foreign minister would have some insight into the process

I'm sure he does - and he's not going to say what he really thinks in public. How do you think politics actually works? SK relies on the US for security, they aren't going to be stupid enough to insult the US publicly by saying that they aren't needed (especially when the President is someone who has clearly demonstrated he needs his ego stroked).

There is also the asian cultural norms around 'saving face' which affects how and what they say. You avoid insulting those you want as an ally, and if buttering up someone is going to get a good reaction, might as well do that if it doesn't cost you anything.

> It is interesting that just a few months ago everyone was sure he was going to start a war in the Korean peninsula and it wasn't just hot air.

That's what the media reports looking to sensationalise everything. Just about everything between the NK and the US over the past few decades has been bluster and hot air - this isn't the first time NK has promised to denuclearise or have a peace treaty - the reality is that NK as just been getting on with whatever program they wanted to do regardless of what they or the US says publicly. Kim is still in power, and they have nukes.

> I'm sure he does

She does. Sorry I did forget to include the original link https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/26/world/korea-summit-kang-kyung... it is Amanpour interviewing South Korean Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha.

> they aren't going to be stupid enough to insult the US publicly by saying that they aren't needed (especially when the President is someone who has clearly demonstrated he needs his ego stroked).

There is something else in between singing praises and insults. Could have just been a generic praise for all parties. The interviewer didn't asks "who credit goes to". Could have praised her own boss for a change "look what we've done".

> the reality is that NK as just been getting on with whatever program they wanted to do regardless of what they or the US says publicly. Kim is still in power, and they have nukes.

Exactly and this is the first time they met. She (the foreign minister) said "I feel like someone stepped on the accelerator" since the beginning of the year. And well, Trump has certainly been preoccupied with NK for a while. Again, I can at least see saying "well he made it worse" by his actions and comments but I don't see saying he has nothing to do with it.

> And well, Trump has certainly been preoccupied with NK for a while. Again, I can at least see saying "well he made it worse" by his actions and comments but I don't see saying he has nothing to do with it.

Just because Trump has talked about NK doesn't necessarily equate to him being the cause of actions that a country takes. Look at the history of NK/US relations ... there are decades of threats and sanctions against NK, none of them have had any real effect. Every now and then, NK makes overtures about denuclearisation and/or peace treaty, but eventually reverses course. In every case, they have done it on their schedule and on their terms.

So Trumps threats are really just another in a long string of US theats against NK. And Trump has less credibility than other presidents given he is well known to lie and bluster. So there is no evidence that NK would feel more threatened by Trump than previous Presidents.

What is different is China. China is in ascendency, particularly in the Pacific where it is blatantly trying to exert its influence everywhere in the Pacific. And NK can't survive without China's support and trade. So one scenario is China hoping to evict the US from the Korean Peninsular (as one of the conditions of NK/SK peace treaty/nuclear disarmament). NK is the puppet to make this happen.

That is far more likely the cause of NK actions than Trump. China is what makes today's scenario different from the previous similar situations.

My main point is that I see nothing different from the US side than what has happened in the past. So hence my statement that I doubt that Trump/US played much of a part in NK actions today. What the underlying driver is I can't be certain, although China is my bet.

> And Trump has less credibility than other presidents given he is well known to lie and bluster. So there is no evidence that NK would feel more threatened by Trump than previous Presidents.

Except that unlike other presidents, he is also crazy. He ran for President because Obama made fun of him. A crazy bully is a lot more dangerous than a smart bully. A smart bully will be afraid of consequences, a crazy one behaves erratically. In a way the crazy image is, I day say, benefiting in this case. Can you imagine Obama both calling NK leader short and fat, then swearing to nuke him? I don't. That's pretty different I'd say.

> So one scenario is China hoping to evict the US from the Korean Peninsular (as one of the conditions of NK/SK peace treaty/nuclear disarmament).

If this was all done by China, why would SK agree to that? Have they been duped and being taken advantage of? So far from what I've read US troops leaving is not a precondition of a declaration of peace and further strengthening of ties.

From China's side, would this peace process move NK closer to SK. Perhaps more cooperation. Economic ties even? Why would they lose their puppet state and buffer zone between themselves and US ally.

> My main point is that I see nothing different from the US side than what has happened in the past.

Well what did Pompeo talk about with Kim? I don't know, it was "secret" meeting. But pretty sure it wasn't about nothing.

And I'll still go with the Foreign Minister said. You might say your analysis shows nothing happened, but she is making pretty strong claims. I am inclined to believe her words. I guess we'll have to wait and see as more details come out.

Agree he is a crazy bully ... but an emphasis on the bully bit. ie bullys don't pick on those that can fight back.

With its nukes, NK can fight back - if not against the US, against SK. I agree that as a crazy President, Trump can destabilise a lot of the world, but I don't believe even he would start a nuclear war.

> If this was all done by China, why would SK agree to that?

Because it would mean peace for them - it's either accept olive branches when they are offered or remain permanently at war. In a way, they are clutching at straws - but I can't say I blame them.

> Well what did Pompeo talk about with Kim? I don't know, it was "secret" meeting. But pretty sure it wasn't about nothing.

There have been plenty of talks - open and secret - between the US and NK in the past. Nothing new here.

WaPo had a good commentary on the history of failed peace talks: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/25/opinion/north-korea-south...

- 1992: the Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression and Exchanges and Cooperation between the South and the North and the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

- 2000: the South-North Joint Declaration

- 2007: South-North Joint declaration

All of those were about peace treaties and non-aggression. None of them went anywhere.

This peace agreement was largely due to Trump shaking things up, South Korea is already acknowledging this.

Trump is such a polarizing figure I'm not surprised people are reaching to discredit him. He's a wacko president but he's not wrong all the time.

Two main things. First, North Korea can now semi-credibly threaten to nuke the US, which makes invading them tantamount to political suicide in the US. It’s likely their nuke would fail or miss or be intercepted, but no President wants to be the guy that got Hawaii or San Francisco nuked.

This has always been the end-game for rogue states, and means Kim Jong-Un is basically home free. If we wanted to get rid of him we missed that opportunity when we let them get nukes.

Second, South Korea elected a liberal president as a reaction to the previous conservative president who was involved in a giant scandal. He had a strong mandate to negotiate.

Trump played a part as well, but it’s not immediately clear how much of an effect his policies had. On the other hand the first two things I mentioned are unambiguously big.

On the US side there was a shift in policy under Trump toward sanctioning and freezing specific Russian and Chinese companies and individuals who were enabling loopholes for the North Korean elite around the general sanctions. Previous US policy avoided targeting smugglers for whatever reason - possibly due to fear of North Korean retaliation if their elite were cut off.


"What changed that North Korea would be serious this time?"

China. Follow the money. China cannot have a nuclear conflict breakout. China is making a killing* exporting. China also knows Kim and Trump are totally insane and something could go terribly wrong. I would guess during this train ride Xi Jinping put down the hammer.


Exactly. That train trip is the key factor here everyone is forgetting. The whole scenario was causing Japan and SK to invite too much US hardware so close to China and was looking more and more like an excuse for pre-emption. China isn't fully ready for a face off.

Came here to say this. For the first time, in the last 6 months China properly put the economic screws on North Korea. They shut down the border markets and routes and also banned North Korean sales of coal, seafood and textiles. They have made token gestures after previous nuclear tests and such, but this was real, consequential action. Also Kim recently returned from a rare train trip to Beijing. If you want to understand what's going on, follow the money. Yes North Korea has improved a bit economically in the last 5 years or so, but China has finally made it crystal clear to Kim that the show is over.

NK's leadership is vulnerable to being starved -- not just themselves, but the people, who if starved hard enough would hang the leadership from lamp posts.

President Trump evidently knew this and threatened to do this. It helps that China is so dependent on trade with the US, which means that DJT could threaten China's pocket book as well (which he did). China cooperated with the US, and Kim folded.

It's that simple.

Sure, Kim was in a strong position but for this.

Citation needed. Sanctions placed on the DPRK under the current administration are not more intense than those under previous administrations. The World Food Program, which analyzes the food security of North Korea, reports the food situation in North Korea is continuing to gradually improve. Current sanctions target various North Korean exports and the import of oil, natural gas, and textiles, but not food. DPRK agricultural production in 2017 was higher than it was in 2015. Additionally, the DPRK has gone through massive food shortages before without a regime change. Between 1994 and 1998, between 5-10% of the population died from starvation, and yet no regime change.

We do know (from press reports) that the President has been getting China to cooperate on trade with NK. Are those reports correct, and has China not cheated? I don't know, but if you recall when Chinese and NK oil tankers were caught doing oil transfers on the high seas, you might agree that the U.S. administration is probably keeping good tabs on that. Evidently they (China, DPRK) must be taking Trump seriously. How seriously is yet to be seen -- there is not yet a deal, and we'll have to see, for perhaps they are still trying to play the U.S., and the Administration might fall for whatever Xi and Kim have in mind.

Starving NK can definitely be arranged. First you make sure they cannot trade, then you wait for things to get bad. The NK economy will not thrive and almost certainly will go south. As to how much starvation is needed for regime change, I don't know, but unlike Clinton and Bush, Trump can be believed that he'll not buckle, and that he'll provide no food aid.

Do you think Trump could get America to go Metric?

I'm kinda trolling but not really.

It occurred to me a week or two ago that he, of all people, might actually be able to switch US to the Metric System and make it stick.

If he were somehow motivated that this was in our interest, I think he maybe he could.

I think the difference between Trump and most other politicians is not the level of BS, but that he's always winking. I've often heard that his supporters don't take him literally, but take him seriously, and his haters take him literally, but not seriously. I think there's a lot of truth to that, and despite the carpet bombing of propaganda and hatred from the MSM won't be able to cover up forever that he's accomplished some good things.

Switch to the metric system? I'm all for it. I doubt it rises to the level of the President's attention, honestly. It might not be until we get an engineer or scientist as President that we switch.

My personal (probably garbage) theory is that Kim Jong Un knows that Trump makes America significantly weaker, and therefore indirectly makes NK stronger, so wants to give a reason to vote him back in for a second term.

This event is certainly a fascinating study in cognitive dissonance.

> significantly weaker

ISIS would beg to differ.

This is classic Poe's law: so ridiculous it surely must be satire, but some Trump supporters actually would believe something like it. I mean, ISIS lost all its major strongholds well before Trump was president. If you really did mean this, you presumably have a theory that involves time travel.

Trump happened and that's what changed I think. Not because Trump is some genius or something but just because he have unlocked things by his shear un-orthodox, not following the rules and keep everyone guessing approach.

I think it's mostly due to their nuclear program being successful at producing an H-Bomb as well as a warhead.

People here say their nuclear program is a failutre, but they already tested the H-bomb as working, and it does look like it can fit in a warhead: http://s.newsweek.com/sites/www.newsweek.com/files/styles/lg...

They probably feel they're in a strong enough negotiating position now to resume six-party talks: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-party_talks

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