Korean hostility thaws at Winter Olympics
South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday met senior North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, over lunch at Seoul’s presidential palace in the most significant diplomatic encounter between the rivals in years.
South Korea says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited Moon for a summit meeting in the North. His sister verbally deliv- ered his offer at the meeting.
Spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said Moon replied that the North and South should continue to build conditions so a summit can take place. He said Moon also called for a quick resumption of dialogue between the US and North Korea. Earlier Kim Yo Jong and other North Korean delegates attended the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which has brought a temporary lull in tensions over the North’s nuclear programme.
At the Olympic Stadium’s VIP box, Kim Yo Jong and North Korea’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, took their place among world dignitaries including US Vice-President Mike Pence, who sat less than 1m away and seemed to make an effort not to acknowledge them.
Moon sees the Games as an opportunity to restore regular communication with North Korea and eventually pull it into talks over resolving the international stand-off over its nuclear programme.
The North and South held summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007.
Kim Yo Jong, 30, is the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Saturday’s meeting was the first time a South Korean president hosted North Korean officials at the Blue House since 2007.
Moon and Kim Yo Jong broke out broad smiles as they shook hands before the start of the opening ceremony. Moon had earlier met Kim Yong Nam during a dinner for visiting dignitaries.
Moon and the two North Korean delegates clapped and waved as the athletes from the two Koreas jointly marched during the ceremony holding a blue-and-white flag symbolising a unified Korean Peninsula.
Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat nearby, looking expressionless.
In a meeting hours before Friday’s opening ceremony, Abe warned Moon not to fall for North Korea’s “smile diplomacy”, according to Moon’s office.
Pence carried a similar message during his trip to Japan and South Korea.
The North has sent nearly 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games.
Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam sit behind Vice-President Mike Pence.
Kim Jong Un