What about the talks the South requested and the North will attend to discuss arrangements for PyeongChang?
On Tuesday 9 January a N Korean - S Korean ministerial meeting has as its top item arrangements for North Korean participation in the Games. There are expectations that this could include work to ease tensions on the Peninsula.
Clearly the opportunity of the Games has created an air pocket for talking about the broader relationship between North and South. Sport will not reunify the Korean Peninsula, but Pyeongchang 2018 can showcase the underlying cultural unity that predates the North-South conflict and it can give a taste of better relations during and perhaps beyond the Games.
The South wants to host a peaceful Games, as well as open direct dialogue with its neighbor.
· But in pursuing those things, the South cannot succumb to North Korean nuclear blackmail to weaken the South’s military alliance with the United States and allies. In the very same New Year’s speech, Kim claimed to be able to hit the U.S. with a nuclear weapon.
· Nor can the South abandon the U.S.-led international pressure campaign against North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.
During the Olympics, going back to its ancient origins, people could trek safely to the Games thanks to a truce among the warring states to clear the path along the way. This Olympic Truce in our era is proclaimed by the UN and it, too, calls for conflict zones to set aside fighting and tension to secure the paths to and from the Games and the weeks of play. (Note: I was awarded by the International Olympic Committee for my role as a UN diplomat in reviving the ancient Olympic Truce for the modern era.)
Both North Korea and South Korea agreed to the Olympic Truce in a formal UN decision on November 13 with all other UN countries.
This will underlie the North-South ministerial meeting on Tuesday. Both sides understand that the Olympics are the world’s greatest celebration of humanity and the world’s largest single movement, straddling all nations, religions, and civilizations.
China has much invested in hosting the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. The N-S talks to support good Games, therefore are important, as China wants to protect the Olympic brand and its spirit going forward.