Koreas Tensions

PV International Desk : North Korea said Friday that it’s still willing to sit for talks with the United States “at any time, (in) any format,” a remarkably restrained and diplomatic response, from a nation noted for its proud belligerence, to President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancellation of a summit with the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

The statement by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, a longtime nuclear negotiator and senior diplomat, which said the North is “willing to give the U.S. time and opportunities” to reconsider talks that had been set for June 12 in Singapore, could be driven by a need to use the summit to ease crushing international sanctions, or by a determination that a summit with the mercurial Trump is the best opportunity the North will ever have to elevate itself, and its nuclear program, to equality with its archrival. Regardless of the motivation, Kim’s statement was the latest whiplash development in efforts to diplomatically address what might be the world’s most dangerous standoff. Focus will now swing back to how Trump will respond to the North’s seemingly conciliatory gesture.

The stakes are high. A scrapping of diplomacy could see a return to the torrent of weapons tests — and the fears of war they created — that North Korea unleashed last year as it sought to put the finishing touches on a nuclear-armed missile program meant to target the entire U.S. mainland. Since January, Kim has taken a radically softer approach to foreign affairs, sending his sister to the Olympics in South Korea, meeting with his South Korean counterpart on their shared border and exploding parts of his nuclear testing site Thursday in an apparent sign of good faith. The Singapore summit would have been the culmination of this outreach.