North Korean leader Kim Jong Un deployed a new weapon at the Olympics to fight back against the Trump administration’s sanctions and menaces of a preemptive strike against his nuclear programme: His sister.
Kim Yo Jong shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, applauded enthusiastically for a unified Korean squad, and displayed a sense of humor in weekend sessions. She also delivered a letter inviting Moon to a summit with her friend in Pyongyang, and asked him to play a “leading role” in reuniting the two Koreas after virtually seven decades.
” I never expected to come here on such short notice to be honest, and I thought it would be strange and different but it’s not ,” Kim Yo Jong said at a dinner Sunday night before heading home.” There are many things similar and the same. I hope we can quickly become one and satisfy these good people again in Pyongyang .”
The warm words were aimed at farther exploiting departments between the U.S. and South Korea, which differ on the best route to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Her visit amounted to a appeal offensive designed to counter the U.S. narrative that Kim Jong Un is a madman who tortures his own people and would blow up Los Angeles or New York City if he didn’t get his way.
North Korea’s participation in the Olympics has already let Kim Jong Un to undermine President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign, with some sanctions suspended temporarily until the event aims. In pushing for a summit with Moon, Kim is seeking to consolidate those gains while maintaining his nuclear arsenal to deter a U.S. invasion.
The question now is whether the U.S. and South Korea can stay united in keeping up the pressure on North Korea just as sanctions limiting export revenue and curbing gasoline imports start to bite. While Trump’s consultants have threatened military action to prevent Kim from gaining the ability to strike the U.S. homeland with a atomic weapon, Moon is seeking to prevent a conflict that could devastate South Korea and the region.
Kim’s proposal for a summit was ” a brilliant diplomatic maneuver ,” said Andrei Lankov, a historian at Kookmin University in Seoul who once examined in Pyongyang. Moon would irritate Trump if he accepts the invitation, while waning would construct the U.S. and South Korea seem” unreasonably bellicose ,” he said.
” The proposal, as well as North Korea’s presence at the Games, sends a signal that the Northern korean are ready to talk ,” Lankov said.” And this signal helps the opponents of a military operation in Washington and elsewhere .”
Signs of discord in the U.S.-South Korea confederation were evident immediately after the announcement. Moon’s office initially provided conflicting accounts of whether he accepted the invitation, with a Blue House spokesperson subsequently clarifying that pre-conditions first needed to be met.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence didn’t discuss the above summon with Moon Saturday while they watched a speed-skating event, a senior White House official said. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Pence reiterated that there was ” no daylight” between the U.S ., South Korea and Japan in pushing to isolate North Korea until Kim abandons his nuclear program.
Later on, Pence told the Washington Post that the U.S. is ready to engage in talks about North Korea’s nuclear program even as it maintains pressure on Kim’s regime. In the interview, he said Moon assured him that the North Koreans wouldn’t get economic or diplomatic benefits for talk about — merely for taking concrete steps toward denuclearization.
Moon came to power promising a softer approach to Pyongyang and has repeatedly strove a summit with Kim Jong Un. Moon initially opposed U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in South Korea, and last year vowed to prevent war at all costs after Trump threatened” flame and fury” against North Korea.
Moon faces health risks of a backlash at home if he goes too far. His approval ratings, while still high at 63 percent, fell after he pushed for a unified women’s ice hockey squad for the two Koreas. Conservative groups have complained the appearing of North Korean athletes at the Games in Pyeongchang with vulgar signs.
North Korea has shown no signs it’s willing to discuss denuclearization. Its negotiators protested last month when South Koreans created the issue during talks over the Olympics, a line North Korea’s state-run media has reiterated. Last week, a commentary published by the Korean Central News Agency called denuclearization” a wild nightmare that they are able never come true .”
Moon won’t have much space to negotiate with North Korea without backing from the U.S ., said Christopher Green, senior adviser on the Korean peninsula at the International Crisis Group in Amsterdam.
” His goal is to do enough on the inter-Korean front to get the United States and North Korea to jaw-jaw ,” Green said.” The real strategic games have only just begun .”