Here's What's Actually Different About the Latest North Korea Talks

Apr 5, 2018 | 08:00 GMT

A map shows North and South Korea.

Unification with the South is still North Korea's main strategic goal, but its ideas about what that would look like have changed over time.



  • Their impending dialogue notwithstanding, mistrust between the United States and North Korea still runs deep.
  • But the new generation of North Korean leaders, the unique political profile of U.S. President Donald Trump and the advanced state of Pyongyang's nuclear program leave an opportunity (however slim) for a different outcome.
  • Otherwise, the two sides could find themselves back on track toward containment or even U.S. military action.

The saying goes that the more things change, the more they stay the same. On the Korean Peninsula, the reverse seems to be true: The more things stay the same, the more they change. Six months ago, the discussion surrounding the peninsula was whether it could avoid unilateral U.S. military action to stem North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Today the conversation has turned to whether Pyongyang's current diplomatic offensive offers hope for a nonmilitary resolution to the conflict, a lingering holdout from the Cold War, or whether it's just another of North Korea's attempts to buy time to secure the government with a viable nuclear deterrent. Having studied North Korea and the issues surrounding the peninsula for more than two decades, I am torn between optimism (however thin) that real change may finally be in the offing and the natural pessimism that derives from past experience....

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