The art of the non-deal might be the only way out of the stand-off between the US and North Korea
High-level inter-Korean talks at the border village of Panmunjeom not only represent a vital step in Winter Olympics’ diplomacy but also offer a tantalizing chance of a breakthrough in stalled six-party discussions.
In stark contrast with the usual tweet barrage, United States President Donald Trump even told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that the meeting could yield a positive outcome.
Among the possibilities are that Seoul and Pyongyang could resume civilian exchanges. The hotline between South and North Korea could reopen along with the joint Kaesong Industrial Region, which was closed in 2016.
The potential of reinvigorating the sidelined six-party talks, involving China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, the US and North Korea, is another possibility.
Beyond the Winter Olympics, the fierce divide between North and South, of course, will not be breached, even though North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has stressed that his country will not go nuclear unless “hostile forces” attack his regime.
He appears confident that there will not be a preemptive US nuclear strike because of the North’s deterrent. So, the question now is where will China position itself after the Panmunjeon talks?
Rumors that Beijing was resigned to an imminent war between Washington and Pyongyang were never credible. Certainly, one view that came out of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October was that President Xi Jinping would protect Beijing’s complex relationship with Washington in parallel with relationships with major trade partners across Asia.