For the first time in 2 years, rival Koreas have agreed to set aside their differences and will formally sit down to discuss cooperation on the Winter Olympics and hopefully find ways to improve their relationship.
The meeting was a positive response by South Korea after North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s address where he stated he would send a delegation to the Winter Olympics which would be held at Pyeongchang from February 9 to 25, 2018.
In the same speech, Un said he had a “nuclear button” on his desk that could fire nuclear weapons at the United States.
According to South Korea’s Unification Ministry, North Korea accepted South Korea’s offer to meet at Panmunjom on 8 January.
Panmunjom is the border village where a North Korean soldier sprinted across the border and into South Korea. He was shot five times by North Korean soldiers but is recovering at a South Korean hospital.
Baik Tae-Hyun, Unification Ministry Spokesman, expects both sides to determine the representatives for their respective delegations early next week.
The confirmation of the meeting came a few hours after the United States announced it would set aside its annual military exercises with South Korea until after the Winter Olympics, March 8 to 18. The joint exercises between the United States and South Korea have infuriated Kim who believes the drills serve as an invasion rehearsal.
The dialogue is certainly a breath of fresh air especially in view of the frequent rhetoric on the threat of nuclear war toward the end of 2017. However history has shown that both Koreas have been unable to move past their animosity.
While Pyongyang may refrain from further testing its weapons during the Games, it does not seem likely that the talks will convince Kim to put an end to his nuclear development program.
It also looks unlikely that the United States will ease its pressure on North Korea to give up its weapons program.
The U.S. has maintained that all options to end the threat of war are being considered including the use of military force. However South Korean President Moon Jae-In does not want another war on the Korean peninsula.
Since his election, President Moon has worked to improve relations with North Korea and restart long-stalled joint cooperation projects. However Moon joined international efforts to apply more sanctions on North Korea.
Some political analysts believe Kim sees this difference in opinion between the U.S. and South Korea as an opportunity and will use the January 8 meeting to open up a divide between the two countries.
North Korea’s athletes did not qualify for the Winter Olympics and will need additional quotas set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in order to come to South Korea.
Baik disclosed that North Korea will likewise hold talks with IOC officials during the week of its meeting with South Korea.