DIPLOMACY: The Peril of North Korea’s Charm Offensive.

North Korea’s ultimate goal since the end of the Korean War has been to weaken the U.S.–South Korean alliance. To accomplish this, North Korean leaders have devised both coercive and persuasive measures to raise the costs of entrapment and abandonment for Washington and Seoul.

This strategy is based on key differences between conservative and liberal South Korean presidents’ policies on North Korea. The South Korean right often supports a hard-line approach out of ideological confrontation, while the left embraces a reconciliatory tone in the spirit of shared ethnicity.

Pyongyang calibrates its South Korea policy to each administration accordingly, in order to widen the differences between Seoul and Washington. For the South Korean conservatives, Pyongyang increases the frequency and intensity of its nuclear and missile tests. This sets a hard-decoupling challenge, pressuring the U.S. to recalculate the value of the nuclear umbrella it provides to South Korea, and raising the central dilemma of trading New York for Seoul.

For the South Korean liberals, North Korea implements its soft-decoupling strategy, emphasising the shared bloodline between North and South Korea to encourage bilateral economic relations in defiance of international and U.S. sanctions.

It’s Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the football — only now the football is nukes.