Pence's Olympic trip a 'missed opportunity' for North Korea diplomacy, source says

Adjust Comment Print

Still, North Korea's participation in the Olympics and the invitation has raised hopes that a thaw in relations could lead to a substantive agreement.

The Pyeongchang Olympic Games that started on Friday helped open a dialogue between South and North Korea, but North Korea can not be expected to give up its nuclear programme, Czech political analyst Marketa Bejgerova has told CTK.

Precautions need to be taken against a situation in which a rift would emerge in global efforts to contain North Korea, while there is no progress being made on the North Korean nuclear issue.

While on his way home from the Winter Games, Pence said the U.S. would continue its "maximum pressure campaign" against the North, but would simultaneously consider talks between the nations.

North Korea has undoubtedly taken advantage of the proximity of these Games. It has dispatched a delegation of almost 500 people — mostly musicians, dancers, and an all-female cheering squad — and has been pushing its participation as a sign of willingness to work with Seoul, through greater exchanges, to ease what has been a year of very high tensions on the peninsula.

At Friday's Olympic opening ceremony, athletes from the two nations wore the same white jackets and marched together under a united Korean flag.

The diplomatic honor bestowed upon North Korea was rare: Moon met Kim Yo Jong, the first member of the North's ruling dynasty to have visited South Korea, four times during the trip. But the reception served to underscore what appeared to be growing divisions between Washington and Seoul.

Members of his entourage have disputed reports that he deliberately went out of his way to avoid contact, but he missed a group photo and arrived late to a dinner for the visiting dignitaries.

On his flight to Alaska on Saturday, the vice president said he left Asia "encouraged that we will continue to work very closely to continue and intensify the maximum pressure campaign" against North Korea.

Pyongyang last month announced it would commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military on February 8, switching it from the original date of April 25, according to Agence France-Presse.

Oh boy. The day before the games begin, there's Mr. Moon smiling happily in the firm belief that Mr. Kim, who would just as soon blow Mr. Moon's head off as look at him, is not only out to "ease tensions" but to voluntarily give up his control of the last Stalinist-style communist police state on earth.

Sources told CNN that sending ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam and Kim's sibling reads as more of a symbolic act than any concrete diplomatic initiative by North Korea.

Deepening the odd-man-out optics for Pence, Moon and Kim, smiling broadly, exchanged a handshake and cheered the team enthusiastically.

President Thomas Bach plans to visit North Korea after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, cementing ties with the reclusive state which used the event to restart political dialogue with South Korea. South Korea "will faithfully implement the worldwide sanctions on North Korea, while also adhering to the principle of resolution through peaceful means", it said.

The cameras, so focused on the North Korean hype squad for the first hour of the night eventually moved down the walkway, turning their lenses to center-ice and Pence, who stayed comfortably seated as the races continued.

North Korea is weak in winter sports, and none of its 22 athletes at Pyeongchang is expected to bring home a medal.