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North Korea's Provocation Level Has Dimmed, U.S. Commander Says

Ros Krasny, Alan Levin
U.S. soldiers stand guard next to the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) conference buildings at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Paju, South Korea, on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday that the administration had “started talking to North Korea directly” and was discussing five potential sites for the unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

North Korea’s level of provocation toward the U.S. changed months before President Donald Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un, said the commander of U.S. forces in Korea.

“We’ve gone now 235 days without a provocation, so we saw a big change occur after the 29th of November missile launch,” General Vincent Brooks, Commander, U.S. Forces Korea, said Saturday via video link to the Aspen Security Forum.

“Since that time, we’ve seen indeed, a change of at least the approach,” Brooks said. “To be sure, the physical threats and capabilities are still in place. But it’s evident through words and action that the intent to use them has changed.”

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Brooks said the challenge now is to continue to make progress with North Korea, and said that the level of diplomacy is “like tulips blooming in the spring,” with abundant channels of communication now open on the Korean peninsula. Trump met North Korea’s leader in Singapore in June.

As posturing continues, there needs to be sufficient room for U.S. diplomats, especially Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, to maneuver toward the outcomes the U.S. wants to achieve, Brooks said. Other countries in the region will be maneuvering and posturing too, he said.

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