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At Olympics, North Korea Seeks ‘Charm’ Diplomacy

2018-02-13

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[00:00.00]
  • The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced plans to visit North Korea after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
  • [00:12.01]
  • An IOC spokesman said Olympics chief Thomas Bach had agreed to the visit as part of the deal for North Korea to take part in the 2018 games.
  • [00:27.81]
  • A date has yet to be set.
  • [00:31.17]
  • The announcement follows the North’s invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
  • [00:44.34]
  • That visit would be the first by a South Korean leader to Pyongyang since Kim Jong Un became North Korea’s leader in 2011.
  • [00:56.92]
  • Moon’s office says he wanted to “create the environment for that to be able to happen.”
  • [01:06.08]
  • The South Korean leader got the invitation from high-level North Korean officials, who were attending the winter Olympics.
  • [01:18.39]
  • The North Korean delegation included chief of state Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong, a sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
  • [01:31.05]
  • Over 400 North Koreans, including athletes and musicians, have gone to Pyeongchang in what some observers have termed a “charm offensive.”
  • [01:46.29]
  • The North Korean actions have raised concerns that they could hurt a United States-led campaign of “maximum pressure” against the North.
  • [01:59.39]
  • The North Korean leadership continues to face international sanctions because of its nuclear and missile activities.
  • [02:10.33]
  • At the same time, the recent contacts have raised hopes of increased diplomatic engagement between the two Koreas.
  • [02:22.66]
  • A spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry said North Korea’s actions were meaningful.
  • [02:33.20]
  • “It shows that North Korea is willing to improve the relationship between South and North Korea.
  • [02:40.65]
  • We also believe it showed that they might take unprecedented drastic action if needed,” he said.
  • [02:49.38]
  • The official did not say what “unprecedented drastic action” meant.
  • [02:56.44]
  • But he said the goal of the contacts is to start denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea.
  • [03:07.28]
  • Top officials from several countries sat together last Friday for the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
  • [03:20.47]
  • They watched athletes of both North and South Korea march together under the white and blue “unification flag.”
  • [03:30.63]
  • The South Korean leader greeted the North Korean representatives.
  • [03:37.41]
  • Also present were U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
  • [03:47.24]
  • German President Joachim Gauk also was there.
  • [03:53.42]
  • Pence did not greet or speak with either of the North Korean officials at the event.
  • [04:00.24]
  • Later, some news media criticized him for ignoring the North Koreans and not clapping during the entrance of the joint Korean team at the opening ceremony.
  • [04:14.94]
  • However, on Sunday, the U.S. official reportedly spoke to Moon about possible terms for engagement with North Korea, but he added that pressure would continue.
  • [04:30.29]
  • On his return to the United States, Pence reportedly said: “No pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization.”
  • [04:48.87]
  • Pence added that, while pressure would intensify, the U.S. government remained open to talks: “if you want to talk, we’ll talk,” he reportedly said.
  • [05:02.80]
  • The Washington Post newspaper reported his comments.
  • [05:08.76]
  • North Korea experts have warned that the “charm offensive” is aimed at weakening U.S. ties with South Korea.
  • [05:20.59]
  • Robert Manning is an expert with the Atlantic Council, a public policy group based in Washington, D.C.
  • [05:30.17]
  • He described the North Korean invitation as “a very clever move by Kim Jong Un to drive a big wedge” between the two allies.
  • [05:43.58]
  • Ken Gauswe is a director at the Center for Naval Analysis in the American state of Virginia.
  • [05:53.47]
  • He noted that North Korea had secured economic aid from earlier inter-Korean meetings.
  • [06:02.21]
  • “If it leads to promises of aid, then it would definitely undermine the maximum pressure strategy,” he said.
  • [06:12.62]
  • Bruce Klingner, a researcher for the Heritage Foundation in Washington agrees.
  • [06:21.11]
  • He said Moon would risk violating United Nations Security Council sanctions if he offered notable aid in return for the North Korean efforts.
  • [06:34.66]
  • Some observers said that the latest developments have put the South Korean leader in a difficult situation.
  • [06:46.05]
  • “President Moon must balance his desire for North-South reconciliation with his policy of denuclearization,” noted Manning.
  • [06:57.77]
  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, during a trip to the Middle East, that it was too early to judge if diplomatic progress was taking place.
  • [07:11.94]
  • "It’s really up to the North Koreans to decide when they’re ready to engage with us in a sincere way, a meaningful way,” he said.
  • [07:24.06]
  • Reuters reports that a South Korean official said that the government’s position is that sanctions and pressure can be expected to continue.
  • [07:37.63]
  • At the same time, talks with the North, involving both South Korea and the United States, should lead to the North’s denuclearization.
  • [07:50.12]
  • I’m Mario Ritter.
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