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Despite Trump's Bluster, Diplomacy Moves Forward as North and South Korea Announce Joint Talks

"Public groundswell in favor of diplomacy is needed once again," says Peace Action

 Demonstrators take part in a rally for nuclear disarmament in Berlin on November 18, 2017. (Photo: ICAN Germany/flickr/cc)

 Demonstrators take part in a rally for nuclear disarmament in Berlin on November 18, 2017. (Photo: ICAN Germany/flickr/cc)

North Korea and South Korea will hold formal talks next week—the first official sit-down in over two years—despite continued bluster by President Donald Trump directed at Pyongyang and his undermining of diplomatic efforts since taking office last year.

Seoul officials said Friday that the North had accepted its proposal to hold the talks.

They will take place Tuesday in the border village of Panmunjom, and are expected to cover the upcoming Winter Olympics, which take place next month in the South, and other Korean matters, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told reporters.

The announcement comes on the heels of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump saying they would postpone joint military exercises until after the Winter Olympics. That development drew praise from Korean expert and peace activist Christine Ahn, who tweeted: "Thank goodness cool heads prevail, for now. It’s our job now to freeze them in exchange for halting NK tests."

The announcement also comes two days after the North restored the "hotline" to the South. 

In his New Year's Day speech, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un signaled an opening for the dialogue, saying, "it's about time that the North and the South sit down and seriously discuss how to improve inter-Korean relations by ourselves and dramatically open up." 

In a statement released Thursday, Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action, welcomed the apparent thaw in relations and said it was urgent for U.S. lawmakers and constituents alike to voice their support for such diplomacy.

"An increase in communications with North Korea should be conscientiously nurtured like the first winter shoots of a fragile plant. Sadly, this diplomatic opening has already been dismissed as a North Korean 'trap,'" he said, referring to some characterizations of the move. "If initial North-to-South talks lead to a multilateral and sustained diplomatic endeavour, diplomacy may come under even stronger attacks from hawks and hardliners in the U.S. and North Korea."

"Proponents of a peaceful solution, whether in the administration, in Congress, or in towns and cities across the nation, will have to make their voices heard. Securing a successful nuclear agreement with Iran couldn’t have happened without the active support of the American people. That public groundswell in favor of diplomacy is needed once again," Rainwater argued.

Trump, for his part, claimed credit for the announcement of the talks, suggesting it was his repeated threats towards North Korea that made the breakthrough possible.

But such "boorish rhetoric" from Trump, warned Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, could prove "[p]otentially fatal to a springtime détente."

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