fourth trip to North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang would be postponed. Trump tweeted “I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization.” While this is a set partial back for North Korea, it will not change their overall strategy of playing nice to obtain sanctions relief, officially or through illegal trade. After all, Trump also tweeted that “In the meantime I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim. I look forward to seeing him soon!”
Further evidence of North Korea’s diplomatic effectiveness was seen on August 13 when South Korean president Moon Jae-in declared he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will hold a third summit in Pyongyang in September. The agenda items include denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and sanctions relief. Seoul hopes to push North Korea to quickly work with Washington and to completely denuclearize. Meanwhile, Pyongyang wants foreign aid and a reduction in sanctions, arguing both are needed as goodwill gestures and to help with an ongoing drought .
Kim unleashed a charm offensive during the 2018 Winter Olympics that shows no signs of stopping. He has visited South Korea twice, China three times, and may visit Russia in September. Not surprisingly, Kim is using his diplomatic visits to convince world leaders that he genuinely wants peace and that sanctions should be eased. Kim is trying to drive a wedge between the United States and its ally South Korea by claiming that America’s refusal to reduce sanctions is standing in the way of peace and disarmament. This is why Washington must consistently and coherently coordinate with Seoul on how to go forward regarding Pyongyang.
Cooperation is especially important because Kim’s plan to get closer with South Korea seems to be working. On August 15, Moon proposed that both Koreas form a single economic community by linking their railways and roads. Furthermore, Moon said this plan for an “East Asian Railroad Community” would bind together China, Mongolia, Russia, Japan, and the United States after peace is established.