Jan 9, 2018

North Korea won't discuss nukes with South Korea: report

North Korea and South Korea delegation shake hands in Panmunjom. Photo: Korea Pool / Getty Images

North Korea told South Korea today that it will not discuss denuclearization in the border talks between the countries, per the WSJ.

  • This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The North has said as much before. This is part of the broader problem of approaching diplomatic conversations with North Korea — both the U.S. and the DPRK have preconditions for talks that the other has indicated it won’t sign off on.
  • The latest: The first round of talks resulted in an agreement that North Korea would send a delegation to the Olympics next month in South Korea, and the two sides have agreed to discuss military tensions.
  • “In a briefing after the talks, North Korea’s chief delegate, Ri Son Gwon, said it was ‘ridiculous’ to raise the subject of the North’s nuclear weapons, which he said were ‘strictly aimed at the U.S,’” the WSJ’s Andrew Jeong writes.

Big picture: Broader conversations between the North and South would have to involve the U.S. — at least — if they were to lead to any deeper diplomatic and security outcomes, so this isn't necessarily the end of efforts to get North Korea to talk denuclearization.

  • The Trump factor: The U.S. and South Korea have postponed their joint military exercises until after the Olympics, but the WSJ’s Gerald Seib reports the U.S. is considering a highly risky preemptive strike on North Korea if the regime were to launch a nuclear or missile test again.

Sports and violence history: The North's past interactions with South Korea over sports have been less than positive, and even violent. North Korea has launched attacks on South Korea in the buildup to or during major sporting events hosted in the South, the BBC reports:

  • 1987: North Korean agents planted a bomb on a Korean Airlines flight traveling from Baghdad to Seoul, which blew up and killed 115 people on board. This was in advance of the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.
  • 2002: North Korean patrol boats fired at a South Korean navy ship during a FIFA World Cup semi-final match hosted in South Korea. Six South Koreans died and 9 were injured. The South Korean team had been performing particularly well.

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