Often drowned out by the din of President Trump’s headline-grabbing promises, a second, quieter set of negotiations between North and South Korea has been far more encouraging. On September 18, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea is scheduled to travel to Pyongyang for his third summit with Kim Jong-un.
Moon Jae-in, a liberal human-rights lawyer, has been “a key driver of this diplomacy since its inception,” said Abraham Denmark, a director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars., because he’s proved to be a skilled and effective navigator among Kim, Trump, China and Japan.
China, with its own agenda, in recent months is loosening trade restrictions with Pyongyang and undercutting Trump’s efforts to pressure Kim, according to former officials and experts.
And “Kim Jong Un’s genius is to set three balls rolling” — the U.S., South Korea and China, according to Aidan Foster-Carter, an honorary senior research fellow at Leeds University, in England. “They all interact, cleverly.”
North Korea’s desire is to bring an official end to the Korean War. American officials are worried this would lead to further calls for a permanent end to military exercises or even withdrawal of the 28,000 American troops based in the South.
“Moon wants to improve relations; he doesn’t care if North Korea disarms or not,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California. “Of course, he knows the United States cares, so his goal is get just enough on the score to keep Trump happy.”
Meanwhile with his talks at an impasse, Trump has asked Moon to be “chief negotiator” between Washington and Pyongyang. They’ve all been able to ride along together so far, their hopes and dreams not clashing too much.