North and South Korea will meet on Tuesday in the demilitarized zone. The meeting is preparation for the Winter Olympics that begin next month. Five senior officials from each side will meet at the three-storey Peace House on the South Korean side of the Panmunjom truce village, with talks to begin at 10 a.m.

Reuters reports North, South Korea to Hold Talks as Winter Olympics Help Break Ice.

North and South Korea will hold their first formal talks for more than two years on Tuesday, brought together by sport to discuss how the North’s athletes can attend next month’s Winter Olympics in the South despite simmering fears of conflict.

The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, initially responded coolly to the idea of inter-Korean meetings.

The State Department had said Pyongyang “might be trying to drive a wedge” between Washington and Seoul and weaken a U.S.-led campaign to force North Korea to give up its development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States.

On Saturday, Trump said he was “100 percent” behind the talks and hoped for positive developments. He also said he would “absolutely” be willing to talk on the phone to Kim.

“Look, right now they’re talking Olympics. It’s a start, it’s a big start,” he said. “If something can happen and something comes out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity, that would be a great thing for the world,” he said.

Bloody Nose Strategy

The Wall Street Journal does not see things so benignly in its report: Amid Signs of a Thaw in North Korea, Tensions Bubble Up.

As one sign of how fraught the confrontation with North Korea remains despite the tentative onset of diplomatic activity, consider this: U.S. officials are debating whether it’s possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula.

The idea is known as the “bloody nose” strategy: React to some nuclear or missile test with a targeted strike against a North Korean facility to bloody Pyongyang’s nose and illustrate the high price the regime could pay for its behavior. The hope would be to make that point without inciting a full-bore reprisal by North Korea.

It’s an enormously risky idea, and there is a debate among Trump administration officials about whether it’s feasible. North Koreans have a vast array of artillery tubes pointed across the Demilitarized Zone at Seoul, the capital of South Korea, with which they could inflict thousands of casualties within minutes if they choose to unleash all-out barrage. Now, that danger is coupled with the risk that the North Koreans could attempt to use a nuclear weapon if they choose to escalate in retaliation to even a single strike.

A key question is whether the conversation can expand beyond the Olympics to include topics South Korea wants to discuss, notably reunification of Korean families split between North and South and a general decrease in military tensions.

Even if that happens, though, the diplomatic move needed to really start dialing back tensions would be conversations between North Korea and the U.S. That possibility seems stuck in a long-distance dance between Pyongyang and Washington, with each side making opening bids the other finds unacceptable. North Korea wants the U.S. to forswear joint military activities with its South Korean ally in advance of talks, while the U.S. insists the goal of talks should be to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, not merely to contain it. Each side finds the other’s conditions unacceptable.

The Wedge

The Wall Street Journal repeated the wedge theory. "Diplomats suspect North Korea’s engagement with South Korea is an attempt to drive a wedge between Seoul and its American allies, thereby reducing the possibility the U.S. could take any kind of military action against Pyongyang."

Global Wedge Shortage

Count me among those who think any wedge that reduces the likelihood of US military action is a good thing.

I never thought about this before, but there is a global shortage of wedges.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock.

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