John Delury

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A picture of Mao Zedong and Kim Il-sung on a remaining section of the Hekou Broken Bridge, which connected China and North Korea before it was bombed by the United States Army during the Korean War. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

As President Xi Jinping of China left North Korea on Friday afternoon, much attention was focused on whether he had obtained any concession on denuclearization from Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader — and how he might leverage that when he meets President Trump this week on the margins of the G-20 summit. But this focus on nuclear weapons and China’s trade war with the United States obscures the real significance of Mr. Xi’s trip, and it mistakes his weakness for strength.

As notable as the pomp and ceremony of the rare meeting — the first visit to Pyongyang by a Chinese head of state in 14 years — was the lack of specifics about policy to emerge from it.…  Seguir leyendo »

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, left, and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea during the third Inter-Korean summit meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea. Credit Pool photo by Pyongyang Press Corps

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea returned from Pyongyang this week bearing fresh messages of good will from Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader: promises to permanently dismantle a test site and a missile-launch pad and to shutter a major nuclear facility. The pledges — “subject to final negotiations”, as President Trump artfully put it — have already been criticized as half-steps, if not traps. There still is no road map or timeline for the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

But the prevailing preoccupation with defense issues obscures a truly notable feature of Mr. Moon’s visit: t he group of business leaders he brought along, including from Samsung and South Korea’s other major conglomerates.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Democratic Party standard-bearer, Moon Jae-in, center, maintains a lead in South Korea’s presidential election polls. Credit Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

As President Trump struggles to devise a North Korea strategy, one country’s voice has been largely missing from public debate: South Korea’s. Yet South Koreans would bear the brunt of the retaliation should Mr. Trump opt for a “pre-emptive” strike against the North Korean regime. Long-term peace on the Korean Peninsula is impossible without Seoul’s input.

South Korea’s lack of influence with the Trump administration was evident during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Asia. He held considerably shorter meetings with the South Koreans than with officials in Tokyo, and he did not even dine with his counterparts in Seoul.…  Seguir leyendo »

If you have a sense of deja vu reading headlines about new UN sanctions on North Korea as punishment for a nuclear test, that's because you literally have seen these headlines before -- as recently as spring.

In March, after Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test, the UN Security Council promised that Resolution 2270 would be the game-changer, inflicting crippling economic pain that would force Kim Jong Un to change his calculus. Those spring sanctions were billed as "the toughest yet."

Spring, alas, turns into summer, and then fall.

Proponents of sanctions, or "boa constrictors" as I affectionately call them, were sounding less triumphant by September, when Kim Jong Un flouted the UNSC by carrying out a fifth nuclear test -- the largest to date.…  Seguir leyendo »