At Olympics, two Koreas and the rest of the world will become one, says Moon Jae-in

Seoul is committed to dialogue and peaceful problem solving with North Korea. Moon greeted Kim Yong-nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state. Pence met North Korean defectors. US and North Korean officials did not have any contact.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) –  At the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, “South Korea, North Korea and the rest of the world will become one," said South Korea’s Presidential Office in a press release following a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in Gangneung, 230 kilometres from the capital.

On this occasion, the two leaders reaffirmed their efforts to make the Olympics the "start" of building global peace. "President Moon expressed hope that Secretary-General Guterres' trip to South Korea will promote 'inclusion and solidarity,'” as well as the Games’ “message of peace" in the peninsula and the world, the Presidential Office’s press release said.

South Korea’ also president greeted Kim Yong-nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the South since 1953. The latter heads a high-level delegation from Pyongyang, which includes Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un's younger sister. She is seen as favouring a more open North Korea.

The United States has instead taken a more provocative and inflexible line. US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday visited memorials for South Korean sailors killed by the North's maritime attacks and met with a group of defectors from the repressive regime.

Pence told the latter that he was “grateful” for their courage. “As we speak, a hundred thousand North Koreans are living in modern day gulags,” he said.

The slim hope for a meeting between US and North Korean officials has thus been dashed. The US State Department on Tuesday said the US had no plans to meet with North Korean officials on the margins of the Olympics. The North had earlier said it had "never begged for dialogue with the US and will be the same in the future."

Meanwhile, the Winter Olympics are set to open today in the presence of many world leaders. They already provided an opportunity to restart the inter-Korean talks.

In his New Year speech, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un announced that his country was ready to compete in the Games in response to an olive branch extended by South Korea. Seoul promptly reacted, starting a process on 9 January that led the international Olympic Committee to give its approval on 20 January.