Despite the name-calling and the vitriol that has characterized many of the public exchanges between the US and North Korean leaders, Distinguished Lecturer in Government Bradley Babson has expressed cautious optimism that President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia could lead to an improvement in relations between Washington and Pyongyang.
Babson, a former World Bank economist with extensive experience in Asia, was a guest on Maine Public Radio’s daily call-in program Maine Calling on November 1, 2017, joining political science professor Kristin Vekasi from the University of Maine, to discuss the issues facing Trump on his Asia trip.
“This trip presents the opportunity of working towards a more coherent North Korean strategy,” he told program host Jennifer Rooks, “one that’s supported by other countries in the region.”
Babson said the US is closer to a real negotiation with North Korea, also known as the DPRK, than ever before, and that process has been helped by ongoing, informal discussions between the two sides. “Through the so-called ‘New York channel’ they’ve been participating in what are called ‘track two meetings’ of non-government officials.” These meetings, said Babson, are infrequent and low level, but significant because they’re focussed on reducing misunderstandings on both sides.
China could also have a role to play because of its economic relationship with North Korea. Babson said Bejing may be able to help facilitate formal discussions between the US and North Korea “without preconditions, at least initially. And that may succeed if it’s done quietly, not under the glare of the news media.”
Due to power outage problems from the recent storm, Maine Public was unable to provide the audio for this program.
Babson is currently chair of the DPRK Economic Forum at the US-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and member of the steering committee for the National Committee on North Korea. In the spring he plans to teach a course on the two Koreas and the geopolitics of northeast Asia.