A development in North and South Korean relations has developed during the opening of the Winter Olympic Games as the enigmatic leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un invited South Korea President Moon Jai-in to Pyongyang “at an early date”. This would be the first meeting of Korean leaders in over a decade and it would be a diplomatic coup for Moon – a leader who rose to power on a platform of engaging more with the reclusive north. The potential invitation comes despite acceleration in Kim Jong Un’s weapons programme and pressure coming from Seoul’s allies in Washington. It came about during talks and a lunch that was hosted by Moon and attended by Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader.
The Winter Olympics has turned into a sort of unifying moment for the two halves of Korea with the two sides shaking hands and cheering for athletes for the two countries who marched under a single peninsula flag for the first time in 10 years. This all could be down to tough U.N sanctions, however, that are cutting off the isolated North’s sources and forcing them to engage further with Seoul. Andray Abrahamian, a research fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS in Hawaii said, ““I think this overture towards South Korea is partly sanctions-related, and also related to the fact that it’s clear a divergence has developed between Washington and Seoul’s most keenly desired goals in the near term. The North Koreans should understand that for a summit or any kind of serious talks to occur, Moon needs to be able to take something to Washington – something that addresses denuclearisation”. Words spoken by Abrahamian before the North’s invitation to Moon was announced.
In contrast to the North and South coming together, was the South’s U.S. ally, Vice President Mike Pence who had no contact with the North Korean delegation despite sitting one row in front of them for the Opening Ceremony. The two sides of the Korean peninsular are technically still at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended not in a peace treaty but a truce. The U.S. fought on the side of South Korea and still maintains tens of thousands of troops and an “ironclad” agreement to protect their ally, the South side. And at the same time, the North has spent years building up its military, claiming it needs to protect itself from aggression from the U.S.