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From Pyeongchang to Peace?

12 6 5

SEOUL – After some two years of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the reprieve, however brief, that the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang promises to bring is more than welcome. But, with some military experts estimating that the probability of war now surpasses 50%, complacency is not an option.

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After years of accelerated missile development, which culminated in successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and, allegedly, a hydrogen bomb last year, North Korea’s nuclear program has become an imminent threat not only to its neighbors, but also to the United States. The response of US President Donald Trump’s administration – which has included unprecedented saber-rattling on Twitter – has escalated tensions further.

Yet, on January 1, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for better relations with the South, before agreeing to participate in the Olympics. What accounts for Kim’s sudden extension of an olive branch to South Korea?

Since coming to power in 2011, Kim has been committed to a policy called the “Byungjin line,” which emphasizes parallel goals: economic development and a robust nuclear weapons program. With one of those goals now ostensibly achieved, Kim has shifted his focus to securing new economic opportunities for North Korea’s........

© Project Syndicate