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    North and South Korea engage in high-level talks; North Korea to participate at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea



     

    Asia: North Korea

     

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    Asia: South Korea

    Americas: United States

     

    North and South Korea engage in high-level talks; North Korea to participate at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea

     

    In his New Year's address, North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, warned the United States against aggressive actions, warning that he was capable of attacking the entirety of the United States.  In his annual address, Kim Jong-un said, "The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat."

     

    On Jan. 2, 2017, United States President Donald Trump reacted to this warning from Kim Jong-un by saying that his nuclear button was bigger and more effective than the North Korean leader's nuclear button. Using his favorite social media outlet, Twitter, Trump said: "North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"

     

    Critics warned that Trump's tweet was akin to baiting North Korea into an armed conflict at a time when the two Koreas were considering bilateral talks ahead of the winter Olympics in South Korea.  

     

    Despite Trump's tweet rhetoric, some progress was made between the two Koreas on Jan. 3, 2018 when they agreed to reconnect the hotline between the two countries that was shut down in early 2016. Around the same period, South Korea suspended cooperation  with North Korea at a joint economic project at the Kaesong Industrial complex after a rocket launch by the North. Since then, tensions on the Korean peninsula have only increased due to North Korea's nuclear and missile launch activity in the following year (2017).  As such, the news of the reconnected hotline between the two Koreas was regarded as a positive sign. 

     

    In another move towards much-desired peace-building, it was announced that delegations from  North Korea and South Korea would meet for high level talks at the Peace House in the border village of Panmunjom.  It should be noted that Panmunjom is regarded as a "truce village."  Divided into two parts by a military demarcation line, one side of Panmunjom is North Korean territory while the other side is under South Korean jurisdiction.

     

    On the agenda would be North Korean participation in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which were set to take place in South Korea in February 2018.  These negotiations were being viewed as a foundation for further talks and a means to  improve inter-Korean relations.

     

    Cho Myoung-gyon, South Korea's unification minister explained: "When discussing inter-Korean relations, the government will seek to raise the issue of war-torn families and ways to ease military tensions." 

    While rapprochement was still a destination in the distance, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who was elected partially for his championing of negotiations with the North,  said that the Winter Olympics in his country would serve as a "groundbreaking chance" to improve relations  with North Korea.  

     

    Note: On Jan. 9, 2018, following high level bilateral negotiations, an agreement was reached to facilitate North Korea's participation at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.  The development marked a significant breakthrough and a victory for vigorous diplomacy between the two countries, which met for their first high level negotiations in more than two years.  

     


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