South Korea wants to talk to North Korea.
The Defense Ministry in Seoul proposed to talk at the border village of Panmunjom, while the Red Cross proposed separate talks to discuss family reunions.
So South Korean President Moon Jae-in has made up his mind -- after his inauguration on May 10 and Pyongyang's ICBM test on July 3.
Pyongyang may also be inclined to talk -- as it had already indicated. But there may be preconditions, as in the suspension of those provocative, annual US-South Korean military drills. The US will say no. Once again, it's all about Washington.
It's unclear whether US intelligence has 100% proof that Pyongyang, apart from the ICBM, is on the path to soon achieve other technological breaks, such as building a guidance system and a miniaturized, functional nuclear weapon capable of surviving both the missile launch and re-entry into the atmosphere.
Now for some crude, hard facts. Kim Jong-un very well knows that nuclear weapons are absolutely essential for the survival of the Kim dynasty. Beijing not only knows it -- but also calculates that Pyongyang does not exactly see it as a trustful ally. During the Korean War -- whose memory is pervasive all across the North -- Mao's key concern was to protect China's borders, not the safety of its neighbor.
The open secret though is that a nuclear North Korea may represent a perennial dissuasion against the US, much more than a threat, but not against China. So that frames the case, once again, as a Washington-Pyongyang drama.
Beijing's margin of maneuver against Pyongyang is rather limited -- something that President Trump as well as the US deep state still do not understand. And North Korea is not a Chinese national security priority -- unless the regime would collapse and there would be an uncontrollable influx of refugees.
The only thing that matters for the Chinese leadership is -- what else -- trade. And as far as China-South Korean trade is concerned, business is booming anyway.
Feverish speculation in the US about a "strike" against Pyongyang is idle. Anyone with minimum knowledge of the Korean Peninsula knows that the response would be Pyongyang virtually wiping Seoul off the map. Not to mention that US intel is clueless on where all the dispersed North Korean nuclear and missile development sites are.
A minimally competent US "attack" would requires a lot of infiltrated US Special Forces, as in boots on the ground, with no guarantee of success. In a nutshell; Washington, realistically, is incapable of eliminating North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
Enter the Trans-Korean Railway
So what to do? The only logical strategy would be to admit -- just as with India and Pakistan in the late 1990s -- that North Korea is a de facto nuclear power.
Pyongyang's strategy, after all, is actually a small marvel; you imprint the feeling you're a totally unpredictable actor, and you scare the living daylights out of everyone while preventing any attempt at destabilization. As much as wishful thinking prevails, that a US surgical strike would be able to paralyze the North Korean political/military/command/communication structure, US intel is clueless when it comes to predicting Pyongyang's actions.