- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Following North Korea’s overtures of reconciliation beginning in January, the regime has made several diplomatic moves to indicate it is willing to resume talks between the US and neighboring South Korea.
After sending a delegation of athletes and members of the ruling family to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, North Korea has made significant strides in thawing relations – though some political observers remain skeptical of the regime’s motives.
Here are the latest developments between the US, South Korea, and North Korea:
During her trip to South Korea, Kim Yo Jong — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister — delivered a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The letter indicated a willingness to foster better relations between the Koreas. There was also an invitation to visit Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.
- KCNA/via REUTERS
Kim Yo Jong’s trip to South Korea marked the first time since the Korean War that a ruling family member of the North Korean regime visited the country.
- REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
North Korea then sent Kim Yong Chol, the country’s vice chairman of the ruling Worker’s Party Central Committee and the country’s former intelligence chief, to South Korea for the Closing Ceremony at the Winter Olympics. Following Yo Jong’s lead, Yong Chol also delivered a bombshell announcement: that North Korea was willing to hold diplomatic talks with the US.
- Patrick Semansky/Reuters
Source: Yonhap News
Meanwhile, the US imposed additional punitive measures against North Korea. The new restrictions were lauded as the “largest package of new sanctions” on the regime, which included targeting ships suspected of carrying banned weapons components to or from North Korea.
- US Treasury
Despite his heated rhetoric in public statements, US President Donald Trump has also teased the possibility of conducting talks with North Korea.
- Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
Source: The Associated Press
Meanwhile, the US State Department stressed that it would only entertain discussions with North Korea only if the regime commits to denuclearization.
Source: US State Department
But the State Department experienced personnel shortages for key positions. The Trump administration decided not to nominate as ambassador to South Korea Victor Cha, a leading expert on the Korean Peninsula. The position has remained unfilled for over a year.
Following his canceled nomination, Dr. Cha joined the MSNBC team as a Korean affairs analyst.
Joseph Yun, the point man on US-North Korean relations in the State Department, also resigned due to personal reasons.
- Jorge Silva/Reuters
After the Winter Olympics, South Korea sent an envoy of senior security officials to North Korea. The discussions appeared to bear fruit, as North Korea made several remarks indicating its willingness to soften its rhetoric.
South Korean officials said that North Korea expressed its “will” to denuclearize if its national security was guaranteed, and that it would halt its nuclear and missile tests during bilateral talks.
Source: NK News
The two Koreas have also made plans to re-establish a hotline, and a landmark meeting between President Moon and Kim is set to take place in April — the first meeting between leaders of the two countries in 11 years.
- Thomson Reuters
Despite the apparent progress on the Korean Peninsula, a South Korean government official said it was not possible to postpone its annual joint military drills with the US in April — an activity that frequently bristles the North.
In response to the most recent developments, Trump said that he believes North Korea is “sincere,” but noted that “they are sincere also because the sanctions.”
- Reuters/Carlos Barria
The US also upped the ante against the North on Tuesday, March 6, announcing a new set of sanctions after the State Department determined North Korea used the chemical agent VX to assassinate Kim Jong Nam — Kim Jong Un’s half-brother — in 2017.
- FUJITV/via Reuters TV
The South Korean envoy traveled to the US, where they briefed their counterparts on their discussions with North Korea.
- REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
In a groundbreaking announcement, South Korean National Security adviser Chung Eui-yong said that Kim invited Trump for a meeting and that Trump had accepted. The meeting will be held “by May,” according to Chung.
President Moon praised the outcome of the invitation and called the recent developments a “historic milestone which will contribute to achieving peace on the peninsula in the future.”
- Jeon Heon-Kyun-Pool/Getty Images
On March 22, Trump announced that national security adviser H.R. McMaster was stepping down. Trump nominated former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton as his replacement.
- Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Bolton’s hawkish statements on North Korea have been viewed as troubling for many foreign policy experts.
On March 27, China announced that Kim made a trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The trip marked the first meeting between the two leaders, and the first time Kim met a world leader since he assumed power in 2011.
- AFP/Getty Images
CIA director Mike Pompeo was revealed to have traveled to North Korea on April 1. Pompeo is believed to have met with Kim to discuss the upcoming summit between Kim and Trump.
- Yuri Gripas/Reuters
On April 1, a 160-member art troupe from South Korea performed at Pyongyang for the first time since 2005.
Kim Jong Un and his wife also made a surprise appearance at the concert that included K-pop stars.
On April 15, South Korea unveiled promotional materials for the upcoming summits, including a website and the slogan: “Peace, a new start.”
On April 20, North Korea’s state-run news agency announced that the country would “stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
- KCNA/ via REUTERS
“The North will shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s northern side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear test,” North Korea’s news agency announced.