Two years had passed since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's startling new year's speech, which virtually marked the beginning of both the US-North Korean and inter-Korean dialogues.
At that time, Kim Jong-un's declared readiness to reconcile with his worst enemies, the North Korean team's trip to South Korea's Pyeongchang for the Olympic Games, the first inter-Korean working-level contacts, and the first US-North Korean summit in June 2018 seemed something out of the ordinary – almost a miracle formed no one knows how.
Then, in February 2019, a second summit was held in Hanoi, during which Trump and Kim Jong-un failed to reach an agreement and did not sign any documents.
On June 30, the US President, President of South Korea Moon Jae-In and North Korean State Council Chairman Kim Jong-un met and shook hands in the demilitarized zone at the border of two Koreas in the town of Panmunjom. There they agreed to resume denuclearization talks.
After those meetings, the parties were still hopeful of further contacts, including at the highest level, and looking for opportunities to continue the process of normalizing relations. But the miracle began to gradually fade away, as if someone had jinxed both relations between Washington and Pyongyang and those between Pyongyang and Seoul.
The reason was Washington's urgent attempts to achieve political supremacy in its dialogue with Pyongyang and drag North Korea into its orbit as a vassal. The White House insistently demanded that Pyongyang demonstrate complete transparency in the nuclear missile sphere, reject its accumulated nuclear arsenal and nuclear developments, with almost nothing significant offered in return, apart from empty rhetoric about security guarantees for the DPRK and promises of a future happy life for all of the Korean people.
Pyongyang called the bluff, suggesting that the Americans move on to a practical dialogue on lifting economic sanctions, reliable security guarantees for the North Korean system, and removing other obstacles to further communication. However, the North Koreans have never got a cogent response from the White House and began to gradually slide back to the old tactics of communication with their new dialogue partners, that is to missile test-firing and hostile rhetoric against Washington, as well as Seoul.
At the same time, according to South Korean media, the North Korean leadership has taken a course for closer rapprochement with Beijing and Moscow. Pyongyang has apparently realized the necessity of Chinese and Russian assistance in serious issues like security, and relied on the wisdom of the two countries' politicians. Concurrently, this rapprochement provided Pyongyang with room to maneuver in bargaining with the United States: once you do not want to lift sanctions, we will take a different approach.
The North Koreans have clearly taken this "different approach" by the end of 2019. They carried out another test at the Sohae launching site, saying it was "extremely important" and would protect the country from the nuclear threat.
Defense technologies verified during the recent tests will provide for developing strategic weapons that allow the DPRK finally solve the problem of deterring the United States and ensuring superiority in power, the General Staff of the Korean People's Army (KPA) said.
At the same time, South Korean sources reported that Kim Jong-un may announce the rejection of talks with the United States on nuclear issues in another new year's speech. The United States' pressure, political offensive has begun all along the line.
And yet the DPRK leadership does not completely close the dialogue window with the US and the Republic of Korea. This is particularly evidenced by the statement by chief of the KPA General Staff Department Pak Jong-chon. His is not only bellicose, but also feasibly open for further negotiations.
We must be prepared to confront the political and military provocations of hostile forces, and be well aware of both the dialogue and confrontation, Pak Jong-chon said.
As for the United States, Donald Trump's administration is trying to preserve both its dialogue with North Korea and the positive pattern accumulated over the two years of communicating with the DPRK.
A number of important statements were made in this regard by the chief negotiator with the DPRK, US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who had recently visited Seoul. There, he proposed that the North Koreans meet in the demilitarized zone and stated that the US did not limit negotiations with the DPRK by any time frames and was ready for a balanced agreement by means of adopting flexible measures.
Biegun has also stressed that Washington through dialogue will achieve the implementation of agreements reached by the North Korean and American leaders at the summit in Singapore.
What calls attention to itself is Biegun's message about a certain statement by Donald Trump: the US President is said to know that Kim Jong-un, for his part, is also making every effort to achieve common goals with the American side.
At the same time, Stephen Biegun has also stressed Trump's words that Washington is closely following DPRK moves.
Given the danger of the growing trend of the degrading situation around the Korean Peninsula, China and Russia have submitted a draft resolution on easing sanctions against North Korea to the UN Security Council. However, its two interesting details should not go unnoticed. First, as the resolution specifies, sanctions against the DPRK should be adapted, while those directly affecting the lives of the civilian population of the DPRK have to be lifted as soon as possible.
Second, the document emphasizes that the Korean Peninsula denuclearization is the key objective for the participants in the process. It is suggested to be implemented in a six-party format, which has once failed to satisfy Pyongyang. Given the past rejection of this format by the North Koreans, Beijing and Moscow stress that the agreements already reached between Pyongyang and Washington will play an important part in it.
The reaction of the United States and other members of the UN Security Council to the Russian-Chinese proposal is not completely evident. The US State Department seems to believe it is a little too soon to ease sanctions against North Korea.
Meanwhile, UN Assistant Secretary General for Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Khaled Khiari urged the US and North Korea to resume negotiations at the diplomatic level in order to achieve the ultimate goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Anyway, the Russian-Chinese initiative appears as a real way out of the Korean deadlock and dialogue continuation. If it is left unattended, further escalation of the conflict will quite likely entail extremely negative consequences up to a full-scale war.