February 11, 2018
SEOUL — South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s gambit to use the Olympics as a form of diplomacy has produced a dramatic gesture – an invitation from Kim Jong Un to hold talks between the two leaders in North Korea – but it is a long way from a major breakthrough.
North Korea invite is dramatic gesture, but not diplomatic breakthrough
The United States insisted it would continue its policy of exerting international pressure on North Korea in an effort to get it to abandon its nuclear program.
“There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program,” Vice President Mike Pence told reporters after a short visit here.
Still, North Korea’s participation in the Olympics and the invitation has raised hopes that a thaw in relations could lead to a substantive agreement.
Moon has said he hopes to be able to set the conditions to hold a summit between the two leaders in the North.
He didn’t say what those conditions were, but he urged North Korea to open a dialogue with the United States, suggesting no diplomatic progress could be made without U.S. participation.
North Korea did prove it was capable of a charm offensive, a stark contrast from the past year when Kim Jong Un and President Trump have traded insults and dire threats.
Kim Jong Un dispatched his 30-year-old sister, Kim Yo Jong, as part of the delegation. Meanwhile a joint hockey team and a cheerleading squad has generated warm feelings, at least at the Olympics.
She appeared beaming in photos and video at the Olympics, where she attended the opening ceremony, and then on Saturday went to lunch at the presidential palace, called the Blue House.
Pence and the North Korean delegation sat near each other at the ceremony but did not acknowledge or speak to each other.
Showing a flair for the dramatic, Kim Yo Jong carried a blue folder with a personal letter from her brother, carefully placing it on a table where the delegation sat across from Moon and his aides.
Analysts have cautioned that similar summits have occurred before but haven’t achieved results.
The last summit between leaders of the two Koreas occurred in 2007 when South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and Kim Jong-il met in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.
Yoon Young-seok, an opposition party member of parliament and chairman of the foreign affairs and unification committee, said he is skeptical of the initiative because it doesn't contain a specific plan toward getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
"Denuclearization is the core issue," he told USA TODAY. "We have to push sanctions."
During previous attempts at ending the crisis the United States and its allies have provided financial incentives to North Korea or agreed to suspend military exercises with South Korea.
But the previous agreements broke down as North Korea pressed ahead with its nuclear program.
“The North Korean leadership simply does not want to give up the nuclear capability it has managed to create and South Korea's engagement policy can hardly persuade them to change their mind,” said Balazs Szalontai, an associate professor at Korea University.
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