North Korean success in test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4 puts the new South Korean government in the difficult position of having to appear tough while still looking for dialogue with its northern rival. With that launch ringing in his ears, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in had already laid the groundwork for deepening rapport with the US in a summit with President Trump that was surprisingly free of disagreement on North Korea. Far from jabbing one another with sly innuendos if not full-frontal attacks, Trump and Moon agreed in two days of talks in Washington that South Korea should take the lead in negotiations with the north.

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