|© Sputnik/ Iliya Pitalev|
The Defense Ministry in Seoul proposed to talk at the border village of Panmunjom, while the Red Cross proposed separate talks to discuss family reunions.
So South Korean President Moon Jae-in has made up his mind — after his inauguration on May 10 and Pyongyang's ICBM test on July 3.
Pyongyang may also be inclined to talk — as it had already indicated. But there may be preconditions, as in the suspension of those provocative, annual US-South Korean military drills. The US will say no. Once again, it's all about Washington.
It's unclear whether US intelligence has 100% proof that Pyongyang, apart from the ICBM, is on the path to soon achieve other technological breaks, such as building a guidance system and a miniaturized, functional nuclear weapon capable of surviving both the missile launch and re-entry into the atmosphere.
Now for some crude, hard facts. Kim Jong-un very well knows that nuclear weapons are absolutely essential for the survival of the Kim dynasty. Beijing not only knows it — but also calculates that Pyongyang does not exactly see it as a trustful ally. During the Korean War — whose memory is pervasive all across the North — Mao's key concern was to protect China's borders, not the safety of its neighbor.
The open secret though is that a nuclear North Korea may represent a perennial dissuasion against the US, much more than a threat, but not against China. So that frames the case, once again, as a Washington-Pyongyang drama.
Beijing's margin of maneuver against Pyongyang is rather limited — something that President Trump as well as the US deep state still do not understand. And North Korea is not a Chinese national security priority — unless the regime would collapse and there would be an uncontrollable influx of refugees.
The only thing that matters for the Chinese leadership is — what else — trade. And as far as China-South Korean trade is concerned, business is booming anyway.
Feverish speculation in the US about a "strike" against Pyongyang is idle. Anyone with minimum knowledge of the Korean Peninsula knows that the response would be Pyongyang virtually wiping Seoul off the map. Not to mention that US intel is clueless on where all the dispersed North Korean nuclear and missile development sites are.
A minimally competent US "attack" would requires a lot of infiltrated US Special Forces, as in boots on the ground, with no guarantee of success. In a nutshell; Washington, realistically, is incapable of eliminating North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
Enter the Trans-Korean Railway
So what to do? The only logical strategy would be to admit — just as with India and Pakistan in the late 1990s — that North Korea is a de facto nuclear power.
Pyongyang's strategy, after all, is actually a small marvel; you imprint the feeling you're a totally unpredictable actor, and you scare the living daylights out of everyone while preventing any attempt at destabilization. As much as wishful thinking prevails, that a US surgical strike would be able to paralyze the North Korean political/military/command/communication structure, US intel is clueless when it comes to predicting Pyongyang's actions.
A Western intel source familiar with the high stakes in the Korean peninsula adds a few stark observations; "The point that is not even touched upon is that South Korea already is within the range of North Korean nuclear bombs even if the United States is not, and can be liquidated by North Korea. We have to examine the nature of the defense alliance with South Korea. Does it mean that we can and will attack North Korea to protect ourselves when we cannot protect South Korea, triggering their destruction in our self-defense?"
The point is that if South Korea is virtually destroyed by Pyongyang's response to American strikes, "then our allies around the world will have the uneasy feeling that they too would be sacrificed as allies should they get in the way. I would say that would be the end of the entire US alliance structure, which actually is already imaginary."
The informed source is convinced that "the South Koreans have forced the United States to agree to forbear on any strike on North Korea, as to support such a strike would be national suicide for South Korea. The United States will do nothing."
All this is happening just as what Seoul really wants is to do business — in a Korean variant of the China-driven New Silk Roads, renamed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Seoul wants to build a Trans-Korean Railway, and go even beyond, connecting it with the Trans-Siberian and, what else, the Chinese-built Eurasian land bridge. That happens to be the so-called Iron Silk Road concept, which South Korea has been dreaming about since an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in 2004.
"Overcoming the land divide between Asia and Europe", connected to the vast trans-Eurasia network, means the fifth-largest export economy in the world would be getting even more business. Handicapped by North Korea's isolation, South Korea is de facto physically cut off from Eurasia. The answer to all this trouble? The Trans-Korean Railway. If only President Moon could entice Kim Jong-un towards a connectivity dream — and make him forget his nuclear toys.