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US, Allies Out Of Sync On Response To North Korean Hostility

REUTERS/Jason Lee

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

The U.S. is trying to persuade China to put pressure on North Korea, but meanwhile the U.S. and South Korea aren’t on the same page on how to deal with the dictatorship.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye attempted to drive a wedge between North Korean leadership and the citizenry in a speech Saturday by calling on the North Korean people to defect to the South.

Her speech was largely interpreted as a sign that the South Korean government aims to see Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship fall.

“President Park is now opting for a North Korea policy that is ultimately aimed at the fall of the Kim regime,” Nam Sung-wook, a North Korean studies professor at Korea University, told The Korea Times.

“The message showed that Seoul will step up its sanctions and pressure on Pyongyang regardless of the instability of North Korea and hope that North Koreans rise against their regime accordingly,” explained Koh You-hwan, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University.

“It can be interpreted that Park implied the collapse of North Korea when she encouraged North Koreans to come to the South. It’s apparent that she does not recognize the Kim regime as a sovereign state,” said University of North Korean studies professor Yang Moo-jin.

The U.S., however, seems much more interested in negotiation than it does regime change or collapse.

The Korea Times argued that U.S. efforts to blockade North Korean coal and mineral exports and cut off Pyongyang’s ties to the international banking system are designed to facilitate the breakdown of the Kim regime, but that may not be the case.

“If North Korea is determined to pursue nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons state status and reject diplomacy, then the international community has to narrow North Korea’s options until diplomacy is really the only path available to them,” Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel told reporters last Thursday.

The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs tweeted, “We are trying to bring North Korea to the table, not to its knees.”

Jane Harman, former congresswoman and head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Korea expert James Person similarly stated  in a recent joint article:

We propose using this US leverage to enter into talks with Pyongyang with the stated goal of negotiating a freeze of all North Korean nuclear and long-range missile tests and a return of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

“Done right, there is a way out of this insanity,” they added.

Evidence suggests that the U.S. and South Korea may have two different views of what the “right” way out actually is.

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