Signs of a Thaw Ahead in U.S.-North Korea Relations

Signs of a Thaw Ahead in U.S.-North Korea Relations

Despite U.S. President Barack Obama's campaign promise to engage rogue regimes, America's relationship with North Korea has been frosty since he took office. A string of provocations by Pyongyang last year, including the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan and a missile attack on Yeonpeong Island, further dampened hopes for progress. But recent staff changes in the Obama administration and other signals suggest that ties may warm in the coming months.

On Oct. 19, State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner announced in a press briefing that Stephen W. Bosworth, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy would step down from his position as special representative to North Korea. The choice of his replacement, Glyn Davies, currently U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog agency, raised hopes that the Obama administration will seek to reinvigorate and reshape talks with nuclear-armed Pyongyang.

It is difficult to know for sure exactly what the staff change in and of itself signals. The administration has insisted that Bosworth’s departure was due to personal reasons rather than policy disagreements. Meanwhile, some commentators have suggested that the replacement of a high-profile special envoy with a low-profile professional diplomat is in fact designed to play down the Obama administration's initially dramatic engagement strategy and impose message discipline on critical foreign policy issues ahead of the 2012 election.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review