S.Korean envoy briefs Japan officials

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will pirouette on a diplomatic catwalk in a calculated game of international one-upmanship

S.Korean envoy briefs Japan officials

IT is remarkable that in the short space of three months, the political situation on the Korean Peninsula has moved from the edge of war into an unwonted atmosphere of hope.

Japan's leader is calling on North Korea to take concrete steps toward denuclearization.

Four days after the surprise announcement that President Trump had agreed to meet the North's Kim Jong Un by May, Washington has yet to hear directly from Pyongyang on the invitation extended by Kim via South Korean intermediaries.

Through all this, China was little more than an observer. While China has long advocated dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang, now that it is happening, it seems to have been transformed into a bystander. Professor Shi Yinhong, director of People's University's Center for American Studies and adviser to the State Council, lamented that as Trump prepares to meet with Kim Jong Un, China "can only stand on the sidelines and welcome the development, but it can nearly do nothing".

South Korea, the third-largest steel exporter to the United States and a strategic ally on the Korean Peninsula, has already put in a request for a waiver. But it is still sticking to its principles of preferring a negotiated resolution to economic sanctions or military action. North Korea reneged on its 1994 pledge to the U.S.to freeze nuclear development and instead raced ahead.

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Yet China has long shared the US objective of eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons.

The Japanese government officially lists 17 of its citizens as having been abducted by North Korean agents and suspects Pyongyang's involvement in other disappearances of Japanese nationals.

He said "North Korea's recent changes are the results of maximum pressure imposed by Japan, the USA, and South Korea working closely together".

For his part, Chung thanked Xi for his "big role" in the diplomatic process that led to the "very positive changes".

That is an important commitment with details unclear. Kim will be able to tell his people that America's president is kowtowing to him out of fear of North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

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But with the administration understaffed and lacking regional experts, it's a concern that Trump and his officials can be fully prepared in 10 weeks for this meeting, analysts say.

Peter Daley, an advocate for North Korean activists and an English professor at Sookmyung Women's University, said that any talks geared toward de-escalation of military hostilities on the peninsula and in the region need to acknowledge the egregious human rights abuses in the North.

The Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) found that while 71 percent of South Koreans age 60 and older believe "unification is necessary", just 38.9 percent of those between 20 and 29 believe the same.

Ensuring that China has a seat at the negotiating table should not be a central USA objective.

The relationship between the two countries is very close, building upon a military alliance that dates back to 1950, when the USA stepped in to defend the South against an invasion from the North - the Korean War.

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