November 21, 2018

Washington Scrambles to Slow Seoul’s Roll

Featuring Kristine Lee

Source: Foreign Policy

Journalist Elias Groll

As the United States’ diplomatic opening with North Korea has largely stalled in recent months, South Korea has pressed ahead with its own effort to improve ties with the North, promoting projects to connect the two countries by rail and an ambitious gas pipeline initiative.

The diplomatic rapprochement has included the prospect of massive economic investments, which North Korea badly needs. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has publicly touted a “new economic map” for the peninsula that would envision connecting the two countries’ economies. When he traveled to Pyongyang in September, he brought with him a delegation that included some of South Korea’s most prominent businesses.

But much of that progress was thrown into doubt yesterday, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned South Korea not get too far ahead of the United States. His remarks underscored a growing concern in the Trump administration that North Korea might already be enjoying some of the benefits of the thaw in relations with the United States without paying the price: genuine progress toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

“We have made clear to the Republic of Korea that we do want to make sure that peace on the peninsula and the denuclearization of North Korea aren’t lagging behind the increase in the amount of interrelationship between the two Koreas,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “We view them as tandem, as moving forward together, we view them as important parallel processes.”

As of now, the American and South Korean diplomatic initiatives could hardly be described as moving forward together. Earlier this month, North Korea canceled a meeting between Pompeo and his counterpart in Pyongyang. And other U.S. officials are struggling to get face time with their North Korean interlocutors.

Read the full article and more in Foreign Policy.

  • Kristine Lee

    Research Associate, Asia-Pacific Security Program

    Kristine Lee is a Research Associate for the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).  She specializes in U.S. national security strateg...