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North Korea exploits its advantages in talks with U.S.

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WASHINGTON – Immediately following what appeared to be a productive, eight-hour exchange in Stockholm with U.S. negotiators led by the highly capable Steve Biegun, chief North Korean envoy Kim Myong Gil promptly told the media that the talks had “failed,” adding gratuitously that they were “very bad and sickening.”

This statement may well have been written well in advance: a pre-planned ploy by Pyongyang to ramp up the pressure on the United States to elicit one-sided concessions. The North Koreans, ever the hard bargainers, no doubt assess that they now have a short-term advantage over the U.S. and are seeking to exploit it.

North Korea may be a hermit kingdom whose leaders attempt to keep their country hermetically sealed against the foreign contamination of truth that could rouse their population and endanger regime stability; but its rulers make every effort to inform themselves of trends in the outside world.

They are no doubt well aware of the pressure U.S. President Donald Trump finds himself under to pull a diplomatic rabbit out of the hat, any hat, in the run-up to the next election. So far, his earnest initiative with the Taliban and overtures to Iran appear to have stalled.

Moreover, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his cronies cannot help but be aware of the Ukraine imbroglio and the swirl of impeachment-related activities in Washington. They may well assume that Trump would welcome the opportunity to change the narrative through a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough, one that highlighted the prowess of his deal-making.

Compounding these matters is the present fractured state of U.S. relations with its allies in Northeast Asia. Washington would prefer to hold discussions with the North with the full backing of a strong, united front of Washington, Tokyo and Seoul.

Instead, America’s two........

© The Japan Times