The United States and its allies in East Asia are rightfully demanding “meaningful actions towards denuclearization” before entering into any negotiations. The North Koreans meanwhile are only offering negotiations without preconditions. The conundrum the international community is about to face in the weeks and months ahead, is to find a diplomatic solution when the political fronts are geared towards conflict.
But in a world in which cooperation is largely seen as more beneficial than confrontation, the North Korean offer is paradoxically gaining momentum with every new erupting crisis. As in all the years before, President Obama’s policy of "strategic patience" will come under intense scrutiny. Not only by those who believe that any talk is better than being silent, but also by those who seek to avert a possible military escalation.
However, as painful as it may sound the policy of "strategic patience" appears to be the only feasible way to make the North Koreans comply with their obligations to denuclearize. The South Korean government is still learning this lesson the hard way. From the tedious negotiations on reopening the Kaesong Industrial Complex to the abrupt cancelling of cross-border family reunions, Seoul's policy of "trust building" with Pyongyang has been nothing but a rocky road with little to show.
I do not think the "political fronts are geared toward conflict." None of the five parties want conflict on the Korean Peninsula. The only country in the region that is geared for conflict is north Korea. The ball is in the north's court. Until it demonstrates good faith by taking concrete actions will it benefit from a return to the talks. To reiterate the phrase is this:
the North Korean offer is paradoxically gaining momentum with every new erupting crisis
The cycle is that as crisis erupts certain parties want to move to talks and this just confirms and reinforces the north's blackmail diplomatic strategy: increase tension and rhetoric and conduct provocations to gain political and economic concessions.
On the other hand, I do think that strategic patience on the part of the US while backing the ROK's trustpolitik initiative is the way to go. But the author should be also have some patience for trustpolitik – I think it will take some years for it to bear fruit. It is not a strategy that is going to bring overnight results or even results in 8 months which is how long President Park has been in office executing her policy.
But the bottom line is that any conflict on the Peninsula will be the result of the Kim Family Regime' actions and not the ROK, US, Japan, China, or Russia. The responsibility is solely on Kim Jong-un's shoulders.