U.S. Gen. Vincent Brooks, former commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command, addressed the issue of North Korea in Seoul on Thursday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 3 (UPI) -- North Korea may be waiting until 2021 to resume diplomacy with the South, and with the United States after the November presidential election, the former top U.S. commander to Korea says.
Gen. Vincent Brooks, who served as U.S. Forces Korea commander from 2016 to 2018, said Thursday on the last day of the annual Seoul Defense Dialogue that North Korea will be taking advantage of the South's elections for better negotiating terms, Yonhap and News 1 reported.
South Korea is to hold its presidential election in 2022, and candidates will be jockeying for position next year.
The political atmosphere in the South could give the North an edge in negotiations, Brooks said.
"In 2021, the South Korean government is in its final year, and campaigning is ongoing," Brooks said. "North Korea is going to wait until 2021 before they begin to engage South Korea. South Korea will continue to try, of course, but I think there would be limited responses and likely negative responses."
Brooks also said Pyongyang, for the time being, has closed the door to dialogue with Seoul.
North Korea's approach to the United States is defined by a similar tack, but comes with relative flexibility. According to Brooks, North Korea has left the door slightly open this year for talks with the Trump administration. A more active approach could be seen after November, or when the election is finalized, Brooks said.
The U.S. commander also said North Korea is calling the shots on bilateral dialogue, with both Washington and Seoul.
"Pyongyang controls the pace of engagement. They decide when they are going to open a door and when they slam the door closed," Brooks said.
In 2020, North Korea shut its borders in response to the coronavirus pandemic and threatened military moves against the South. In June, the regime demolished the inter-Korean liaison office, a symbol of progress in relations between the two governments.