On Sunday, after seven years of preparations, PyeongChang in South Korea exhaled with relief as the whole world was watching closely the athletic and political developments.
The 2018 Winter Olympics, apart from the spectacular feats of the athletes, gathered the attention of the international community because of its political significance. After two years of radio-silence between the two neighbors in the Korean peninsula, on New Year’s Eve, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea sought a diplomatic thaw that restarted talks between Seoul and Pyongyang.
The pinnacle of this rapprochement can be seen in a truly emotional moment as the delegations of the two countries marched under a unity flag, and a joint women’s hockey team was formed. But that was not all. In a historic visit high ranking officials of North Korea visited PyeongChang with South Korea President Moon Jae-In doing everything in his power to maintain this positive momentum, fully aware that the denuclearization of the peninsula, the main point of discord, would be an uphill battle.
On the other side of the world, Washington was wary of the inter-Korean miracle, with US Vice President Mike Pence warning the international community of the North’s stance.
Now, as the spotlight has left PyeongChang, the harsh light of reality sets in.
Without missing a beat, a North Korean official visiting the South for the Winter Olympics said again that North Korea was open to talks with the United States, according to Yonhap News Agency in the South. Based on the report of the presidential office, during a meeting with South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong, Kim Yong Chol repeatedly expressed the North’s willingness for talks with the United States.
President Moon did not miss a beat, as on Monday, just one day after the official closing ceremony and the announcement that Pyongyang was open to talks, highlighted that both the US and North Korea should both give ground so they can sit down to talks to try to resolve a nuclear standoff. During a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, Moon stated that “recently, North Korea has shown it is open to actively engaging the United States in talks and the United States is talking about the importance of dialogue”, but underlined the need for a mutual lowering of the threshold for talks.