After comments from US President Donald Trump and his ambassador to Seoul, Admiral Harry Harris, the Pentagon, despite its misgivings, has confirmed it is preparing to hew to their commander-in-chief's desire to suspend major war games with South Korea. This serves to assuage a major concern of North Korea, which has long viewed these exercises as a preparation for invasion. In order to not look like too much of a climbdown, there is talk that not all joint training will be suspended. Nevertheless, the thrust of US diplomacy towards the isolated nation is clear: Pyongyang now must stay on the path of denuclearisation and the positive moves it has made with the destruction of its nuclear testing site.
This then raises the question of the future of the crippling United Nations-imposed sanctions. The stout observance of these sanctions by China, which accounted for about 90 per cent of North Korea's trade, probably contributed the most to Chairman Kim Jong Un's decision to attempt a rapid normalisation of ties with his southern neighbour, and more importantly, the United States. After the public relations victories scored by Mr Kim this year with his outreach to the South, North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympic Games hosted by the South, and his own dramatic summits with South Korean President Moon Jae In, and subsequently, with Mr Trump, a loosening of sanctions was always on the cards.