North-South relations dominate ahead of Winter Olympics opening in Pyeongchang

North-South relations dominate ahead of Winter Olympics opening in Pyeongchang

The 23rd Winter Olympics kicks off in PyeongChang today, with millions of global viewers set to witness the entrance of

Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Unclear Legacy

Photo: AP/Ahn Young-joon

The 23rd Winter Olympics kicks off in PyeongChang today, with millions of global viewers set to witness the entrance of a combined Korean team marching under a unity flag.

Presaged by Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day speech, North-South relations have experienced a significant thawing over the past month. Urgent meetings held in January to discuss the fielding of a joint Olympic team were the first face-to-face intergovernmental discussions held in two years.

Yesterday’s arrival of US Vice President Mike Pence is Washington’s rebuttal to the presence of North Korea’s symbolic head of state Kim Yong-nam, the most senior official ever to visit the South, and Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong. The US hopes Pence will undermine any “hijacking” of the Games’ message that the North might promote.

While Russia and China have promoted the talks that led to a unified team as a move in the right direction, Washington remains sceptical; Pyongyang has long pursued a strategy of rapprochement to achieve concessions followed by renewed antagonism. Expect the depth of renewed North-South bilateral relations to be tested when US-South Korean military exercises kick off in April.

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