The door of talk between two bickering Korean neighbours seems to be wide open after successful stay of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong during Winter Olympics in South Korea. Kim Yo flew back to the north after a whirlwind three days in South Korea, where she tossed a diplomatic offer to the South aimed at ending seven decades of hostility.
On Sunday, Kim Yo Jong conveyed her brother’s hopes for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a lunch at Seoul’s presidential palace.
It was a sharp, but possibly fleeting, contrast with many months of rising tensions connected to the North’s continued development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon hosted the North Koreans for lunch Sunday before Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, hosted them for dinner ahead of the concert.
Kim Yo Jong, 30, is an increasingly prominent figure in her brother’s government and the first member of the North’s ruling family to visit the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The North Korean delegation also included the country’s 90-year-old head of state, Kim Yong Nam.
In dispatching the highest level of government officials the North has ever sent to the South, Kim Jong Un revealed a sense of urgency to break out of deep diplomatic isolation in the face of toughening sanctions over his nuclear program, analysts say.
“Honestly, I didn’t know I would come here so suddenly. I thought things would be strange and very different, but I found a lot of things being similar,” Kim said while proposing a toast at yesterday’s dinner, according to Moon’s office.
“Here’s to hoping that we could see the pleasant people (of the South) again in Pyeongchang and bring closer the future where we are one again.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday rejected any suggestion that even a temporary warming of relations between the North and South could drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.
The most important part of the visit, however, came during one of the quieter moments.
Invited by Moon for lunch at Seoul’s presidential palace, Kim Yo Jong verbally delivered her brother’s hope for a summit with Moon in Pyongyang, a meeting that she said would help significantly improve ties after an extended period of animosity.
“We hope that President (Moon) could leave a legacy that would last over generations by leading the way in opening a new era of unification,” she said, according to Moon’s office.
Though Moon has used the Olympics to resurrect meaningful communication with North Korea after a diplomatic stalemate over its nuclear program, he didn’t immediately jump on the North Korean offer for a summit.
He said the Koreas should create an environment so that a summit could take place. He also called for the need of a quick resumption of dialogue between North Korea and the United States.
(With inputs from Agencies)