South Korea's desire to engage and unify with its reclusive northern neighbor appears to be clashing with Washington's goal of eliminating nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.
As the two Koreas make steady progress toward reconciliation — a South Korean train on Friday traveled across the border into the North for the first time in a decade — there are mounting concerns that peace efforts may overshadow the denuclearization of North Korea.
"We have made clear to the Republic of Korea that we do want to make sure that peace on the peninsula and the denuclearization of North Korea aren't lagging behind the increase in the amount of inter-relationship between the two Koreas," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in November.
From joint railway projects to sporting exchanges, South Korean President Moon Jae-In's government is looking to spend hundreds of millions on economic and cultural initiatives with Pyongyang to promote integration and reunification. So far, the two countries have agreed to reinstate a joint military commission, develop mechanisms for family reunions and even pursue a joint bid to co-host the 2032 Olympics.
In Washington, many are now comparing the rapid pace of warming inter-Korea relations with the slow progress of denuclearization.