The new year brought a diplomatic breakthrough between North and South Korea with reopened dialogue through a telephone hotline. As it turns out, the resulting discussions were indeed a precursor to in-person talks, which have led the two sides to agree to march together under a unified peninsula flag during the PyeongChang 2018 opening ceremony. Further, North and South Korea will form their first joint Olympic team (that is, a woman’s hockey team).
The agreement took place between North Korean delegate Jon Jong Su and South Korean Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung while meeting in the DMZ near Paju, South Korea. CNBC reports that North Korea — which hadn’t even declared that it would be attending the games a few months ago — has committed to sending a substantial delegation, according to a joint statement:
North Korea will send a 550-member delegation of about 550, including 230 cheerleaders, 140 artists and 30 Taekwondo players for a demonstration, the statement said.
The fact that 230 North Koreans are being sent specifically to cheer says a lot about Kim Jong-un’s newfound enthusiasm for his southern neighbors. Japan, however, is not impressed. Reuters reports that Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono is warning the globe to not be naive about what it’s calling a “charm offensive” on behalf of North Korea. “It is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea,” Kono stated. “The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working.”
Indeed, North Korea is likely motivated to get those harsh U.N. sanctions lifted, since they’ve been rather crafty while trying to evade them. Yet any cooperation between the two sides is (clearly) much better than any alternative.