A month ago Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in the demilitarized zone separating the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea. They agreed to hold more contacts between their representatives at the working level and to continue discussing the denuclearization problem – the Americans believe of just North Korea, whereas North Korea says of the whole Korean Peninsula.
It seemed back then that joint efforts of the parties helped overcome the stalemate, but in fact the denuclearization and other unresolved problems of the Korean Peninsula hadn't been discussed at all since the failure of the second American-North Korean summit.
Moreover, Pyongyang is conducting missiles tests which are of course an irritating factor for neighboring countries. The DPRK launched short-range missiles in May. US President Donald Trump said then that he didn't care about launches of missiles of this type. However, such launches made Seoul and Tokyo very much concerned.
Trump reacted similarly to North Korean missile launches on July 24, although some observers believe that upgraded short-range missiles that are launched from mobile launchers were tested.
Even US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who previously treated North Korea even harsher than the American leader, this time reacted rather calmly to an obvious Pyongyang's innuendo.
He explained in a rather reconciling manner that "everybody tries to get ready for negotiations and create leverage and create risk for the other side." He also said that the USA intended to continue negotiations with North Korea despite the May and July missile launches.
Pompeo said that Washington didn't worry about the fact that negotiations between the USA and the DPRK on the working level hadn't started yet. He noted that Washington expected "productive dialogue" with Pyongyang. "President Trump has been incredibly consistent here: We want diplomacy to work. If it takes another two weeks or four weeks, so be it," Pompeo said explaining the position of his chief.
At the same time, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un demonstratively examined a new North Korean submarine, attended yet another missile launches and said that his country was "forced to continuously develop" new arms because of "potential and direct threats" posed by ... South Korea.
It's quite an interesting twist in Pyongyang's foreign policy. It has turned out that the threat is coming not from the USA, which has recently openly blackmailed the DPRK using force, but from South Korea, whose President Moon Jae-in not only made a significant contribution to the launch of two most important peaceful negotiation tracks – inter-Korean and American-North Korean, but also has many times kept the Americans away from using force against North Korea, when tensions between North Korea on the one hand and the USA and South Korea on the other hand escalated.
Kim Jong-un called the new steps to strengthen the defense capacity of his country a warning to militarists ... again in South Korea.
Apparently, both Pyongyang and Washington are convinced that there is still an opportunity of a diplomatic solution of the problem of not only and not just denuclearization but also of the whole range of American-North Korean relations, and that is why they seek to preserve already established communication channels at all levels.
Obviously, the current situation, which involves the absence of both negotiations and conflicts, is profitable for both the Americans and the North Koreans. It is important for Pyongyang that the threat of direct military confrontation has been put aside, while lengthy negotiations with Washington are profitable as well. And it's important for Washington that it made Pyongyang quit hostile rhetoric and get to the negotiating table. The US administration apparently views this as an achievement.
Surely, Washington considers the recent incident involving the detention of a Russian fishing vessel by North Korean border guards as the achievement of it and its new partners, North Koreans. The detention fits well the American strategy of containing Russia's activity worldwide.
Noteworthy, the Russian ship was detained almost 100 km from the North Korean shore. The Russians were accused of intruding the "military protection" zone that the North Koreans established themselves and declared it theirs. This incident resembles the recent incident in the airspace of again the Sea of Japan that involved South Korean jet fighters that tried to hinder the flight of Russian bombers.
South Korea's important role of the third party in this peaceful process is in shadow against this backdrop. Pyongyang is clearly trying to move its southern neighbor away from the negotiations and the US administration treats this indifferently. But it seems that even in this situation Moon Jae-in is showing wisdom and restraint to help things move forward.
Both joint American-South Korean military exercises that are still held off the Korean Peninsula and North Korea's building-up of its military potential and its missile launches have become, so to say, daily routine and at least today are not a reason for the drastic escalation of the situation.
These launches are no more a scaring element for South Korea and Japan, but they are an irritant for them. The DPRK should stop taking actions that don't promote easing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, spokesman of the South Korean Ministry of Defense said after the July launches in North Korea.
It seems that everything is calm around Korea for now. But that is for now only. Actually, the problem is unresolved and it's not being resolved. And it cannot be resolved by two parties only, by North Korea and the USA. There are many other parties that are directly or indirectly interested in a truly just solution.
And such parties are of course Russia and China. They support peace processes around Korea, but at the same time propose building a new regional security architecture that covers the interests of all countries concerned. And no aspect of the Korean problem can be solved without this.