Although the situation is still uncertain, it's not the first time international diplomacy has been affected by the gamesby Andrew Hammond / February 26, 2018 / Leave a comment
As the Winter Olympics closed on Sunday, it has been revealed that the event may deliver another unexpected geopolitical dividend. That is, North Korea has now indicated it is willing to start direct talks with the United States without pre-conditions—potentially building on the recent mini-rapprochement between North and the South in recent weeks.
The announcement follows a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and head of the North Korean delegation, Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers party’s central committee.
In response, the White House said Sunday that“a brighter path is available for North Korea if it chooses denuclearisation. We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearisation.”
Should the Olympics ultimately help contribute to a sustained thaw in relations between North Korea and the United States in coming month—which remains highly uncertain—it would prove a surprise very few anticipated even a few weeks ago.
During the opening ceremony, Vice President Mike Pence refused to stand for the delegations from North and South Korea, who made a point of entering the stadium together.
Only in December, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley had painted a bleaker scenario after months of rising tensions in the peninsular, highlighting that security challenges from North Korea meant that it was even an “open question” whether US athletes would be able to compete at the games because of the problem “of how we protect US citizens in the area.”
The shifting sands since then have seen an unexpected warming between Pyongyang and Seoul which began with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year message that the Olympics would be a “good opportunity to show unity of the people.”
He also spoke of potentially melting “frozen North-South relations.”
Since then, the two nations have re-opened a diplomatic hotline, and the Trump team has also consented to suspend joint military drills previously scheduled to coincide with the games.
Pyongyang later confirmed that it would send athletes and cheerleaders to the games in PyeongChang after the nation’s first high-level, bilateral talks with Seoul in two years. The latter has at least temporarily lifted sanctions to allow the former to attend the…