Mixed Signals on Engagement

Commentary
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38 NORTH

Mixed Signals on Engagement

Since mid-May, there have been signs of a high-level policy discussion in Pyongyang over how to proceed with diplomatic engagement with Washington. On one hand, there has been a positive shift in DPRK commentary on US-DPRK negotiations both from the North Korean Foreign Ministry and via the pro-DPRK paper in Japan, Choson Sinbo. Externally, Pyongyang appears to be signaling that it would welcome a US gesture allowing the two sides to resume engagement. Internally, however, there seems to be opposition to this course, or at the very least serious warnings about proceeding along the same lines that Pyongyang took from January 2018-February 2019.

As usual, no single statement or commentary unambiguously tells the story. Rather, it is in combination—along with the shadings of language, topics omitted and even the choice of audience—that suggest Pyongyang is moving beyond its immediate post-Hanoi policy reevaluation and into a new phase.

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