North Korea judged victor of diplomatic gold at Olympics

Cheryl Sanders
February 11, 2018

She is one of the reclusive leader's closest advisers and met with Moon at the presidential Blue House in the capital, Seoul, on Saturday in the highest-level contact between the two Koreas in years.

"An early resumption of dialogue between the United States and the North is needed also for the development of the South-North Korean relationship", Moon said through a spokesperson.

U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership traded insults and threats of nuclear war as tensions rose, with Trump repeatedly dismissing the prospect or value of talks with North Korea.

Moon is set to take the invitation with both optimism and caution as he is expected to walk a fine diplomatic line over the matter.

On his flight to Alaska on Saturday, the vice president said he left Asia "encouraged that we will continue to work very closely to continue and intensify the maximum pressure campaign" against North Korea.


The Moon government has been engaging in a delicate balancing act between Pyongyang and its longtime ally Washington after Kim Jong Un offered to send a delegation to the Olympics in the South. Moon has accommodated the North's demands on Olympics participation in hopes of persuading Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table to discuss denuclearization, while trying to allay concern in Washington that the North was using a "charm offensive" to simply ease sanctions and earn time to complete its nuclear weapons program.

"We would like to see you at an early date in Pyongyang", Kim Yo Jong told Moon during the lunch, and also delivered her brother's personal letter that expressed his "desire to improve inter-Korean relations", the Blue House said.

He also talked about visiting the North Korean border town of Kaesong, where the countries operated a jointly-run factory park that had been a symbol of rapprochement before South Korea shut it down in 2016, after North Korea's fourth nuclear test.

"The North Koreans should understand that for a summit or any kind of serious talks to occur, Moon needs to be able to take something to Washington - something that addresses denuclearization", he said before the North's invitation to Moon was announced.

Past "charm offensives" have been interpreted as North Korea trying to recoup from crippling sanctions on their nuclear program, or trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its US ally. Pence carried a similar message during his trip to Japan and South Korea. The delegation is expected to head back to the North later Sunday.


But Moon, a liberal who has always wanted to engage the North, will also have to convince a good portion of his own people who are deeply wary about North Korean intentions.

Al Jazeera's Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from the South Korean city of Gangneung, said the meeting would be famous in history.

Pence, by contrast, avoided speaking with North Korean officials Friday, and he and his wife did not stand, as most spectators did, when the athletes from both Koreas marched together under a flag representing a unified Korea. On Friday, Moon pointed to the joint Korean women's hockey team - an Olympic first - as a starting point.

Pence said he and Moon spoke as "friends" and are completely aligned on the need to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea.

An editorial in the Yomiuri Newspaper read: "What can not be overlooked is that Moon did not directly demand North Korea to abandon its nuclear development". South Korea wants a northern neighbor without nukes; North Korea vows to keep its weapons until the United States discards its "hostile" policies against the country.


Other reports by iNewsToday

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