Good cop, bad cop on North Korea?

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Differences between the United States and South Korea over their approach to North Korea are becoming increasingly apparent. No danger of a rift between the United States and South Korea exists yet, but there’s a saying in Korean that perfectly sums up their situation: same bed, different dreams.

“The U.S. is going in one direction, and South Korea is going in the other,” said Choi Kang, vice president of the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, a respected Seoul think tank. “I think there may be some friction between the two sides.”

Those differences have become evident in recent weeks as South Korea has made tentative moves toward rapprochement with the North, even raising the prospect of a summit between President Park Geun-hye and the North’s Kim Jong Un.

Meanwhile, the United States has toughened its position, imposing a new round of sanctions since the Sony Pictures cyberattack and threatening more, while President Obama predicts the eventual collapse of the “authoritarian” state.

Park, having taken a hard line against Kim when she assumed power two years ago, has noticeably relaxed her stance on North Korea recently. Entering the third year of her five-year term, with few successes to point to so far, she could do with a boost from a summit, which generally has the effect of lessening fears of the North.

The divergence between the allies could hardly be more stark. President Obama struck a markedly hawkish tone when asked about North Korea in an interview with YouTube last week.  “It’s brutal and it’s oppressive,” he said, adding that the United States will keep ratcheting up the pressure on the North. “Over time, you will see a regime like this collapse.”

Meanwhile, North Korea doesn’t do anything for free. To secure the first summit between the two Koreas, in 2000, Kim Dae-jung’s administration paid $500 million to the North, and the price has apparently risen exponentially over the years. In an 800-page memoir, Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, writes that North Korea demanded an “absurd” $10 billion and almost a million metric tons in food aid in 2009 during discussions about a potential summit (which never happened).

[Washington Post]

This entry was posted in by Grant Montgomery.

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