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Beware of spoilers in diplomacy

Beware of spoilers in diplomacy


North Korean and South Korean athletes participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics under the same flag. This is the result of direct talks between officials from both sides. There is both hope and skepticism about the diplomatic thaw. No one knows what the outcome of the current positive small steps and will be. Spoilers are already pre-condemning North Korea’s “charm initiative”.

In the News:

U.S. Vice President Pence is condemning North Korea’s participation in the Olympics as “propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic games”

Peace Science Insights:

  • Vice-President Pence is a “spoiler” to the process, meaning he is fundamentally opposed to any agreement and tries to wreck it.
  • In peace processes, spoilers have to be marginalized, rendered illegitimate or undermined.


Pence, Returning Tough Stance on North Korea, Announces New Sanctions. New York Times, Feb. 7, 2018

Ramsbotham, O., Miall, H., & Woodhouse, T. (2016). Contemporary conflict resolution: The prevention, management and transformation of deadly conflicts (4th ed.). Cambridge, UK: Polity.


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