Geopolitics on the rocks, MacroGeo Cable

Why North Korea would benefit more from a détente than the US

East Asia

Both North Korea and the US are acting out of vulnerability but the US more so

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, has invited President Trump to meet for negotiations over its nuclear program and Trump has agreed to hold such an unprecedented summit.

The two leaders might well never meet in the end – the summit is tentatively scheduled for the end of May.

But it is now crucial to understand what is prompting North Korea and the US to pursue a deceptive détente.

At this point both North Korea and the US are acting out of vulnerability but the US more so.

Pyongyang is inching close to having a deliverable nuclear warhead capable of threatening the U.S. territory but, despite the progress made, it’s not there yet.

Thus, lacking a nuclear deterrent it wouldn’t be able to resist an American preventive strike if it were to occur.

On the other hand, the US doesn’t really know what to do.

Washington cannot accept that what was conceived as a buffer state is becoming a nuclear-armed regional power preventing the US from reaching the Yalu River and putting its troops at the border with China.

Furthermore, Washington is loath to see Pyongyang extend its influence over Seoul which now feels compelled to accommodate the requests of its nuclear-armed neighbor.

That is why both North Korea and the US need to play for time.

Pyongyang to continue developing its nuclear program while pretending to freeze it.

The US to better evaluate its options and revive its relationship with South Korea which strongly opposes military solution to the current crisis.

But time might be more beneficial to North Korea than the US, especially if the superpower decides not to attack the Hermit Kingdom.

If it were to happen, a possible détente between Pyongyang and Washington might last several months; enough time for North Korea to secretly achieve a full nuclear deterrent, leaving the US with no viable option but to accept the fait accompli.