It sounded impossible just a couple of months ago, but North Korea and South Korea seem to be betting on the thaw, at least for the moment, after a period of serious tensions. The first day of talks between the two countries for two years has been developed in a friendly climate and has yielded results. The first, the “yes” of Pyongyang to participate in the Winter Olympic Games in the South. The second, the decision to open a military dialogue “to resolve the current tensions,” according to a joint statement, and the reopening of a line of communication between the two armies.
The talks divided into three working sessions in the peace village of Panmunjom, in the Demilitarized Zone that marks the border between the two countries, open a door to continue the dialogue between the two countries – the personal commitment of the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in and reduce the tensions generated by the rapid advances of the North Korean nuclear and missile program. A door that has been made possible by the recent announcement by Seoul of the postponement of their joint maneuvers with the United States. UU until after the games; and also, paradoxically, by North Korea’s declaration that it has already completed its weapons program.
For the time being, South Korea has already achieved one of its goals: to get the “yes” from Pyongyang to participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics , which Seoul has dubbed “the Peace Games”, and to make sure that While the games last there will be no shocks in the form of missile tests or North Korean nuclear bombs. Pyongyang, which in 1988 boycotted the Summer Olympics in Seoul, has offered to send a delegation consisting of “athletes, officials of the Olympic Committee, animators, artists, fans and reporters,” according to the joint statement.
But the details are still to be resolved, where the difficulty is usually. Both parties must still agree on the size of the delegation that South Korea will send to the North to participate in the sporting event or where it will stay. The unilateral sanctions of Seoul to Pyongyang create problems for the displacement of the North Korean representatives, although the South already has indicated its disposition to suspend temporarily those measures of punishment to make possible the trip. North Korea has also not clarified whether the athletes who move will participate in the competition.
The two delegations, headed in the South by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-hyon, and in the north by Ri Song-won, head of the Commission for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, have also already agreed, according to the joint statement, the establishment of a dialogue between both armies to “avoid incidents”.
Those conversations, which would be the first of their kind since 2014, have not yet set a date. Hours before, Chun had confirmed the reestablishment of a line of military communication interrupted two years ago, as the relationship deteriorated. However, North Korea said it will not talk about nuclear weapons with its counterpart in the South, because the weapons “are only aimed at the US” and not “brothers” in South Korea, according to Reuters.
South Korea had also proposed, in addition, a meeting of families separated by the war, the first in two years and to be celebrated on the occasion of the Asian New Year, in mid-February. But the joint statement does not allude to that possibility. If they did, they would not only coincide with the Winter Olympics: they would also coincide with the birthday of Kim Jong-il, the former North Korean leader and father of the current one.
The conversations took place in a more fluid climate than usual. “I have covered many of these meetings and the atmosphere is exceptionally good,” a reporter from the North Korean agency KCNA told the “pool” of reporters from the south. A good environment that seemed unthinkable over the past year, when the nuclear and missile tests of North Korea, and the exchange of outbursts between Washington and Pyongyang, unleashed tensions and the president of the United States. UU., Donald Trump, threatened to resort to the military route against the North.
Nothing to do with the last time that both countries had met to discuss, in December 2015, when the talks ended without reaching agreements or a new meeting date. Nor with the drama lived a few meters from the meeting place just two months ago. Then, a North Korean soldier managed to escape to the south in a spectacular flight, amid a hail of bullets from his until then colleagues who left him seriously injured.
“The inter-Korean relations are more frozen than winter itself,” Ri commented at the beginning of the sessions, “but just as under the ice the water continues to flow without rest, the desire of the people to see dialogue can not be stopped”.
Ri himself, who to mark the most relaxed atmosphere came to the meeting in a suit jacket and not in the military uniform he wore two years ago, even suggested that the talks be developed publicly and in the presence of the press “to demonstrate the sincerity “of the north in the search for dialogue. Cho preferred to temporize and keep them behind closed doors.
The meetings of this Tuesday have taken place a week after, in his speech of January 1 , Kim Jong-un declared that North Korea has completed its program of armament and -in what he wanted to present as a gesture of magnanimity- will be shown, for the first time, open to the participation of his country in the South Olympics. Almost immediately, Seoul offered to talk about it.