In a promising development, North and South Korea have agreed to have their athletes march together under one flag at the Winter Olympics taking place next month in Pyeongchang.
This announcement comes just a few weeks after North Korea and South Korea started to communicate again after two years of no direct communication.
North Korea leader Kim Jong-un expressed interest in opening communications with South Korea to discuss participation in the Winter Olympics.
“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people, and we wish the Games will be a success,” said Kim in a New Year’s Day speech.
Now, not only is North Korea participating, but the two countries will be marching together, “united.”
“The symbolism of the agreement—especially the two nations’ plans to march together, united, in the opening ceremony under a so-called unification banner—is powerful. South Korea’s government is, in essence, offering some diplomatic cover to Pyongyang amid the North’s standoff with the Trump administration,” writes WSJ.
Both nations have agreed to form a joint women’s ice hockey team, as well. The North, which is known for its propaganda machine, is sending 230 cheerleaders, along with a 30-member taekwondo demonstration team to the Winter Games.
Even though the countries seem to be in a cordial place for the first time in a long time– the U.S. continues to take a strict stance on North Korea.
“Just hours before the deal, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for a more coordinated and powerful international campaign of sanctions and pressure to isolate North Korea, an effort that contrasts with the celebratory nature of a rapprochement at the Winter Olympics,” writes the WSJ.
President Donald Trump and Kim have exchanged harsh threats in the last few months, but the U.S. has been supportive of the South Korea and North Korea discussions.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said that President Donald Trump deserves “big credit” for the recent meeting between the enemies.
“I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks,” said Moon at a news conference, as reported by Reuters. “It could be a resulting work of the U.S.-led sanctions and pressure.”
The Trump Administration still believes North Korea can’t be trusted.
“This is not the first time that North Korean and South Korean athletes have marched together,” said White House National Security Council spokesman. “Let’s hope that the experience gives the North Korean athletes a small taste of freedom and that it rubs off.”
“We all need to be very sober and clear-eyed about the current situation … We have to recognize that the threat is growing and if North Korea does not choose the pathway of engagement, discussion, negotiation, then they themselves will trigger an option,” said Tillerson. “Our approach is, in terms of having North Korea chose the correct step, is to present them with what is the best option – talks are the best option; that when they look at the military situation, that’s not a good outcome for them.”
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono believes North Korea has a hidden agenda for the recent talks.
“I believe that North Korea wants to buy some time to continue their nuclear and missile programs,” said Kono, “It’s not the time to ease pressure towards North Korea.”
But he also said the talks are in response to the sanctions.
“It is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea,” said Kono. “The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working.”
South Korean officials are also skeptical if this will lead to a denuclearization agreement.
“Speculating on whether this will eventually lead to denuclearization talks is getting ahead of ourselves,” said Kim Yong-hyun, an adviser to the committee for the South Korean government. “Many variables will affect whether North Korea takes a more cooperative stance even after the Olympics.”
Tillerson is doubtful that the country will be open to negotiations when it comes to its nuclear and missile program, but he is still open to meeting with North Korea.
“Productive negotiations require a credible negotiating partner. North Korea has not yet shown themselves to be that credible partner,” said Tillerson.
Author’s note: This is a really incredible development. This could actually be the seed that grows into a reunification effort. But Trump needs to keep the pressure up. If he was to let off, it could derail everything.
Editor’s note: As long as the situation is in flux, there is little danger of war. These are positive events that could lead to a thaw between the countries.