Despite throwing a military parade just one day before the start of the Olympic Games as a clear statement of Kim Jong Un’s unwillingness to back away from his aggressive military stance, the North Korean regime made a rare overture toward peace on Saturday. In a historic meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, the South Korean leader was presented with an invitation to visit their reclusive neighbor state to the North.
Although the two Koreas engaged in some form of diplomatic talks just over two years ago, the meeting between Moon and Kim was arguably the most important meeting between North and South Korean officials in more than a decade, though it promises to be overshadowed by the diplomatic importance of a face to face meeting between Moon and the elder Kim in North Korea, supposing the South Korean president accepts the invitation.
Provided there are no overwhelming security concerns presented, it seems likely that Moon will indeed accept the invitation from Kim, delivered both on paper and via personal invite from the younger Kim present. Moon, a progressive that was elected following the impeachment of South Korea’s previous conservative leader, has maintained as friendly a disposition toward North Korea as possible amid heightening tensions brought about by Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and advanced ballistic missile platforms to carry them. He has called for formal talks, repeatedly, arguably leading to Kim’s request to participate in the Olympic Games that kicked off this week.
Moon did not accept the invitation outright, however, despite his warm disposition toward the neighboring nation. He responded instead by saying that both North and South Korea “should accomplish this by creating the right conditions” for a meeting to take place, adding another caveat that may even be a deal breaker for the ego-driven Kim: that North Korea also agree to engage in talks with the United States. These statements are in keeping with previous statements made by Moon starting at his swearing in ceremony, where he said he’d travel to Pyongyang “under the right conditions,” adding that “for peace on the Korean Peninsula, I will do everything that I can do.”
Historic tensions between the divided Koreas have always involved the United States, though in recent years, the United States has stepped to the forefront of the conflict with the Kim dynasty. The United States has led the charge against Kim’s rapid nuclearization, championing sanctions and providing military hardware and support to allies in the region like South Korea and Japan, much to the chagrin of diplomatic opponents like China. Although Kim Jong Un’s artillery has long kept South Korea’s capital city of Seoul in their sights, it’s clear that Kim’s nuclear ambitions have been conducted throughout with the united States in their cross hairs.
Despite an apparent warming of relations between North and South Korea, undoubtedly expedited by sanctions further limiting North Korea’s already struggling economy, there has been no sign of U.S./North Korean relations improving whatsoever. American Vice President Mike Pence, who also visited South Korea for the Olympic Games, notably avoided any interaction with the North Korean emissary whatsoever, opting not to participate in the good-will applause and similar gestures directed toward the sister of the ruler Pence referred to as “the most tyrannical” on Earth.
“I was encouraged by the affirmation of our alliance and our common purpose, from both [Japanese] Prime Minister Abe and President Moon,” Pence said aboard Air Force Two. “I leave this trip encouraged that we will continue to work very closely to continue and intensify the maximum pressure campaign that is underway against the regime in Pyongyang.”
Images courtesy of the Associated Press