It appears that a combination of strong rhetoric along with an openness for constructive dialogue has proven fruitful in U.S. efforts to peacefully engage North Korea.
This strategy was discussed at length when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sat down with CNN‘s Elise Labott.
“I think the rhetoric that North Korea understands is that while it is our objective, and the president’s been very clear, to achieve a denuclearization through diplomatic efforts, those diplomatic efforts are backed by strong military option if necessary,” Tillerson explained.
“That is not the first choice and the president’s been clear that’s not his first choice, but it is important that North Koreans as well as other regional players understand how high the stakes are, in an effort to ensure our diplomatic efforts are fully supported.”
The secretary of state’s answers come as North Korea has entered the negotiating table with South Korean officials — despite threatening statements by President Donald Trump that critics feared would only provoke leader Kim Jong Un.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump tweeted after Kim spoke about his nuclear capabilities.
The president’s tweet was largely derided by critics claiming that he was, once again, provoking nuclear war with a rogue regime.
To the dismay of many, however, North Korea has agreed to hold their first official, face-to-face meeting with South Korea in two years, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The meeting, expected to take place Tuesday, will occur as North Korea is clearly feeling the effects of the toughest international sanctions ever placed on the Hermit Kingdom.
And the stakes couldn’t be higher, as South Korea is set to host the Olympic Games in just five weeks.
Already isolated from most of the world, North Korea has recently been slapped with even more U.N.-backed economic sanctions as they continue to bolster their nuclear program, which their leader says has the ability to reach American shores.
In 2017, the U.N. Security Council passed several resolutions that enacted more punishment against the regime for its nuclear program. Sanctions include restrictions on imports of oil, coal, iron, agriculture and other pivotal commodities.
While it’s difficult to determine exactly how hard the sanctions are hitting North Korea, it’s become obvious that the people are getting more desperate.
Dramatic footage was recently caught of a North Korean soldier fleeing south of the border to escape. Withstanding gunshot wounds, the soldier was able to make it to South Korean soil and was rescued by military officials.
A subsequent medical examination showed the North Korean defector’s small intestine to have roundworms that were reported to be as long as 10.6 inches. Roundworms, a clear indication of malnutrition, were an odd discovery given military members were believed to have fared better in food-strapped North Korea than average citizens.
The harsh sanctions, along with tough talk by the White House, has seemed to force North Korea to the negotiating table.
Negations on Tuesday, which will mostly center around the Olympic Games, could help determine whether tensions are cool enough to begin discussions on North Korea’s nuclear policy.
Not long after his “nuclear button” tweet, Trump took to social media again to tout the results his rhetoric was getting.
“With all of the failed ‘experts’ weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North. Fools, but talks are a good thing!” he boasted on Thursday.
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