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Nuclear issue still a thorn in current Korean détente: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-02-11 19:05

United States Vice-President Mike Pence went to Pyeongchang committed to foiling Pyongyang’s alleged attempt to “hijack the message and imagery” of the Olympics.

He left insisting “there is no daylight” among the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea on sustaining the strategy of extreme pressure. However, the latest developments offer no clue whether that is indeed the case or not.

Athletes from both sides of the 38th parallel marched into the stadium under a “Korean Peninsula” flag and sat shoulder to shoulder behind the podium, where IOC President Thomas Bach gave a sentimental eulogy to the power of unity.

The ROK President Moon Jae-in promised to “make it happen” upon receiving a handwritten invitation from Democratic People’s Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong-un for a visit “at the earliest date possible”, and officials of the two Koreas talked for three hours over lunch, sharing soju.

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the DPRK leader, reportedly left a message expressing hope for “unification and prosperity in the near future”, and the visiting art troupe from Pyongyang stirred up another round of romantic anticipation surrounding the abrupt détente.

Everything negative about the DPRK, even its military parade the day before, appeared forgotten.

No wonder US media lamented the US was “left in the cold”. Indeed, even Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was found greeting Kim Yong-nam, head of the DPRK delegation.

President Moon may be a little more anxious to exploit these developments than Washington would feel comfortable with. The warm welcome extended to Pyongyang officials was certainly not what the White House wanted.

Moon’s suggestion that Pyongyang should seek negotiations with Washington was a fitting reminder, both to Pyongyang and the rest of the world, that inter-Korean reconciliation is difficult without engaging that crucial third party.

Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington, critical as they are, have remained impossible to date because neither party appears ready to compromise and make the first move, as the US is resolutely opposing talks until the North agrees to end its nuclear program, and the DPRK is equally adamant that its nuclear capacities are non-negotiable.

Nevertheless, it is to be hoped the welcome improvement in the situation on the Korean Peninsula can be sustained and built upon, rather than being allowed to slip back into the previously capricious instability.

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