Talk About Talks

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Trump administration, in line with South Korea’s approach, indicates it is open to preliminary discussions.

Trump administration officials have shifted their tactical approach to North Korea after internal deliberations in recent weeks, senior officials said, closing ranks with Seoul and signaling a readiness to hold preliminary talks with Pyongyang.

The new emphasis on what some experts call “talks about talks” is a change from last year, when the U.S. insisted North Korea commit itself to denuclearization before negotiations could commence.

On Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave one of the clearest indications yet of the evolution in U.S. thinking.

“We really need to have some discussions that precede any formal negotiations to determine whether the parties are in fact ready to engage in something meaningful,” Mr. Tillerson said during a visit to Cairo.

His comment followed a visit by Vice President Mike Pence to the Winter Olympics in South Korea during which Mr. Pence met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, saying later that the two were in agreement on the approach to North Korea. A senior official said Mr. Pence made clear to Mr. Moon that if he met with the North Koreans, Mr. Pence’s private message about denuclearization would mirror his public message.

None of this means that the White House has dropped its campaign of “maximum pressure” on North Korea, officials emphasized.

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