As PyeongChang Olympics end, 'new wave' of dialogue begins

Seoul wants to bring Pyongyang and Washington to the negotiating table. North Korea opens up dialogue with the US, which insists: North must commit itself to renouncing nuclear power.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Peace and hope for the future were at the center of the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, entitled "The new wave". A title that well represents the new phase that began in PyeongChang: the post-Olympic one of the dialogues between the two Koreas and the United States.

Inter-Korean relations entered a positive phase since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to send his athletes to the Pyeongchang Olympics. Since then, there have been meetings and reconciliation initiatives, as well as several "historical firsts": the first visit by a member of the North Korean leader’s Kim family and the first inter-Korean team.

At present, there are still many obstacles to the realization of South Korea's hope of bringing the American ally and the neighboring North Korean to the negotiating table. On February 23, US President Donald Trump announced new sanctions against Pyongyang, affecting 50 other transport and trade companies. The US president also added that the eventual failure of this campaign would push Washington towards a hard "Phase two".

North Korea has condemned these statements as an "act of war". The "crisis" seemed to subside yesterday, when Kim Yong-chol, head of the North Korean delegation attending the closing ceremony, announced that North Korea has "sufficient" intention to dialogue with the White House.

The US responded by reiterating its position: "We will see if Pyongyang's message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization". The US insists that North Korea's renunciation of nuclear power is a precondition to any dialogue initiative. Until now, Pyongyang has always ruled out this possibility.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in must announce his decision regarding the invitation to visit North Korea. The Blue House wants to keep alive the hope of reconciliation with the neighboring socialist republic, without losing favor with its American ally. A test for inter-Korean relations will be the next joint military exercises, which should be held after the end of the Paralympics, on 18 March.

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