Kim Jong-un urges 'warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue' with South Korea as Olympics boost diplomacy

World

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un urged a continued “warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue” after speaking with emissaries who had visited South Korea.

The comments, relayed via North Korean state media, offer the latest glimmer of diplomatic progress as Pyongyang uses the Winter Olympics to advance rare dialogue with its southern neighbour. Mr Kim was quoted saying both countries were driven by “Winter Olympics as a momentum”.

Athletes from both the two Koreas marched under a united flag at the start of the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Mr Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in — the first time a member of the Kim dynasty is known to have entered South Korea since the Korean War cleaved the peninsula into two countries.

That meeting produced an invitation from Ms Kim for Mr Moon to visit Pyongyang, offering another chance for a breakthrough.

Mr Kim expressed “satisfaction” over the exchange, according to state media.

Those complimentary words contrasted sharply with the rhetoric emanating from Pyongyang over the last several months.

North Korea has threatened to obliterate Asian neighbours and to strike American territory as it has lobbed a series of intercontinental ballistic missiles, tests of military hardware that have rattled the world and brought United Nations sanctions.

While Mr Moon has expressed hopefulness about North Korea’s recent gestures, consistent with the pro-reconciliation platform that he campaigned on, the Trump administration has been more muted.

Vice President Mike Pence has made a point of calling attention to Pyongyang’s human rights record, blasting North Korea as “the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet” and saying the country would not be allowed to “hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region”. He did not interact with Ms Kim.

Kim Jong-un’s sister attends Winter Olympics in South Korea

But Mr Pence also embraced the notion of holding talks with North Korea.

“No pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearisation,” Mr Pence said, according to the Washington Post. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk”.

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