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Diplomacy At The 2018 Winter Olympics

Comment by Zoran Panović

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The fact that both Koreas entered together under a Korean Unification flag is a huge step in decreasing tensions between the two countries. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has favoured a peaceful reunification between the two Koreas and has repeatedly called on peace talks with North Korea.

At the start of the Olympics, Moon shook hands with Kim Yo-jong — the head of the country’s propaganda department and sister of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un — which marks the first time since the Korean War where a member of the ruling Kim dynasty visited South Korea.

North Korea’s actions could, however, have been influenced by the sanctions. According to an editorial in Chosun Ilbo, a major right-leaning South Korean news publication, North Korea may see a drop in exports of up to 90 per cent this year. North Korea’s participation may be influenced by the need to weaken the impact of the sanctions. Moon should be careful not to fall into any traps in North Korea’s recent diplomatic actions.

Top officials from several countries sat together for the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics. They watched athletes of both North and South Korea march together under the white and blue “unification flag.”

The South Korean leader greeted the North Korean representatives. Also present were U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. German President Joachim Gauk also was there.

The Olympics may be a step toward the right direction in preventing international conflict, but what should be a concern is what will happen after the Olympics

But according to a senior diplomatic source close to North Korea, the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s trip was “a missed opportunity.” During the opening ceremony, Pence said that he chose to ignore Kim, saying that he “didn’t believe it was proper for the United States of America to give any countenance or attention to someone who’s not merely the sister of the dictator but is the leader of the propaganda effort.”

Pence’s decision was affected by Pyeongyang’s alleged human rights violations. Before arriving in South Korea, Pence vowed more sanctions and more pressure on Pyongyang. He also brought along Fred Warmbier, the father of an American college student who died after brutal mistreatment while imprisoned in North Korea — a move that has been called a “defamation campaign” by the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Institute for American Studies.

As athletes from the Koreas marched into the stadium during the opening ceremony and their leaders applauded, Pence remained in his seat. If Pence was representing the Trump administration, then his actions show blatant disrespect. If Pence really wanted to denuclearize North Korea, then he should have appreciated the effort put into bringing a unified Korean team together. Even so, Pence has recently signalled a willingness to hold preliminary talks with North Korea without dropping Washington’s “maximum security campaign,” but some form of goodwill towards the North has to be seen from U.S. representatives if they want to hold talks.

The Olympics may be a step toward the right direction in preventing international conflict, but what should be a concern is what happens after the Olympics. There may be some relaxed tensions between the two Koreas right now, but some of it should remain if they want to hold talks.

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