Not long ago the world was quaking at the prospect of the outbreak of hostilities between the U.S. and North Korea. Now, the leaders of the two Koreas, the South's Moon Jae-in and the North's Kim Jong Un, are preparing to meet on the inter-Korean border on Friday as a prelude to broader talks involving the U.S. and China. Correspondingly, expectations are rising for a possible deal to bring permanent peace to the Korean Peninsula -- an outcome that if realized would probably bring Nobel Peace prizes to the protagonists. But is that realistic? Much depends on how and why such an accommodation would be reached.
U.S. President Donald Trump has brought something new to the North Korean problem: the understanding, lacked by his predecessors, that it can only be tackled as an element in the larger U.S.-China relationship. Playing bad cop and good cop simultaneously seems to have produced some results. It is reliably reported that the Chinese leadership ordered dramatic cuts in fuel, food and maintenance supplies to North Korea earlier this year and deployed troops near border areas to prepare for a collapse scenario.