Sunday, 13 October, 2019

South Korean PM to host lunch for high-level DPRK delegation

North Korean athletes look on during the welcoming ceremony ahead of the Pyeong Chang 2018 Winter Olympic Games South Korean PM to host lunch for high-level DPRK delegation
Shannon Reynolds | 12 February, 2018, 05:44

In an extraordinary show of unexpected unity, North and South Korea sat side by side under exploding fireworks that represented peace, not destruction, as the 2018 Winter Olympics opened on a Korean Peninsula riven by generations of anger and suspicion.

Abe said it would be important to conduct the US-South Korea joint war games, codenamed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, as scheduled, Xinhua news agency cited the Blue House official as saying.

The two sides have come a long way since Seoul hosted the Summer Olympics in 1988, where North Korea refused to attend and bombed a Korean Air flight in the months before the Games in an attempt to scare the worldwide community.

"I thought things would be unusual and very different, but I found a lot of things being similar", Kim said while proposing a toast at Sunday's dinner, according to Moon's office.

After decades of bloodshed and strife, including a runup to the Olympic Games that saw the rival Koreas lurching toward war amid a near-constant barrage of North Korean missile and nuke tests, it's such a ludicrous concept at first glance that many refuse to even consider it.

The conservative Dong-A Ilbo warned that South Korea may lose the trust of the United States and Japan as it courts North Korea for talks, and that the North, knowing that Seoul and Washington plan to resume war games in March, "may deploy a strategy of using the Moon Jae-in government as a shield from the United States".

The high-ranking North Korean delegation had landed in South Korea earlier in the day aboard Kim Jong Un's white private jet which had the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name, inscribed in black in Korean on its side, followed by the North Korean flag.

Pence avoided North Korean titular head of state Kim Young-nam at a reception dinner hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. "The president said it was not appropriate for the prime minister to directly mention the issue". "That's the team he's going to be cheering for all Olympics". Moon is pursuing denuclearization of the peninsula through inter-Korea dialogue, and is using the opportunity of the global sports event to promote this policy.

In sharp contrast with the "for-us-by-us-detente" message that Kim Jong Un is pushing — while explicitly telling the U.S.to mind its own business — Pence's demands for the North to abandon nuclear ambitions before any talks seem all the more harsh.

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Washington insists that Pyongyang must take concrete steps towards denuclearisation before any talks can begin, while Moon - whose parents escaped from the North in a United States evacuation during the war - has long argued for closer involvement to bring it to the negotiating table.

In August 2009, the DPRK sent a high-ranking condolence delegation to bid farewell to late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung who held the first inter-Korean summit with late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il, father of the current leader.

US officials have been urging South Korea to be cautious in its rapprochement with the North.

Mr Pence said the United States would "demand at the outset of any new dialogue or negotiations that the Kim regime put denuclearisation on the table and take concrete steps with the world community to dismantle, permanently and irreversibly, their nuclear and ballistic missile programmes".

After the threats, missile launches and general nastiness from the North over the a year ago, there is still a lot of anger, fear and scepticism in the South.

North Korea has used a military parade on the eve of the Pyeongchang Olympics to show off its latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which Pyongyang claims has the range to target the entire mainland US as well as Britain.

There is worry too that the proposed summit Pyongyang may come with preconditions - a North Korean speciality.

Other members of the North Korean delegation present at Saturday's meeting included Ri Son Gwon, who led the first sit-down talks at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) earlier this year, and Choe Hwi.

Not long after, North and South Korean athletes entered Olympic Stadium together, waving flags showing a unified Korea - the long-time dream, in theory at least, of many Koreans both North and South.

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