North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to a summit in Pyongyang, while Washington warned against North Korea’s “charm offensive”.
The invitation was sent by Kim Yo Jong, sister of the North Korean leader visiting the South for the Olympic Games inaugurated Friday, according to a spokesman for the Blue House, the South Korean presidency. Mr. Kim is ready to meet Mr. Moon “as soon as possible” but he has not yet accepted this offer.
Such a summit would be the third of its kind, following meetings between Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, and South Koreans Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-Hyun in 2000 and 2007, each time in Pyongyang. However, the meeting could sow discord between Mr Moon and US President Donald Trump, who until recently, has exchanged personal insults and apocalyptic threats with Mr Kim.
Washington insists the North must prove before any negotiations that it is willing to denuclearize the country. But Kim Jong Un has recently proclaimed that his country is now a “nuclear state in its own right”.
After months of silence about the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics, the competition proved an opportunity for a spectacular rapprochement between the two rivals. The North is in a full offensive charm, sending to the South athletes, artists, cheerleaders and delegation of high level. Kim Yo Jong, among them, is the first member of the Northern Dynasty to walk on South Korean soil since the end of the Korean War.
“We hope to see you soon in Pyongyang,” Kim Yo Jong told the South Korean president after giving him a personal letter from his brother, according to the South Korean authorities. “We want President Moon to become a protagonist in a new chapter for reunification, to leave great marks in history,” she said.
North Korean officials and President Moon attended Saturday night’s first game of Korea’s undefeated women’s ice hockey team against Switzerland.
The Korean peninsula has been divided since the end of the war in 1953. Democratic South Korea became the world’s 11th largest economy while the North stagnates in poverty.
This proposal comes after two years of extreme tension on the peninsula. The North conducted its sixth nuclear test in September and fired ballistic missiles capable of reaching continental US territory.
Mr Moon could find himself in a delicate diplomatic position in the North Korean bid. But he dodged an immediate response, according to his spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom, asking rather that “good conditions” are established for such a visit. He called on the North to pursue more actively an “absolutely necessary dialogue” with the United States.
According to analysts, the North, which exhibited giant intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) during a military parade on Thursday, seeks through its Olympic campaign to obtain a softening of UN sanctions. The communist regime also wants to put a dent in the relationship between Seoul and Washington.
“Kim’s proposal is based on the assumption that the North retains its nuclear weapons while seeking a rapprochement with the South,” he told journalists. “The North is not interested in a dialogue on denuclearization”.
At the opening ceremony of the Olympics, US Vice President Mike Pence had no interaction with the North Korean delegation, according to US authorities.
“The United States will not allow the farce of North Korean propaganda to remain unanswered on the international stage,” Pence said on Twitter. “The world CAN NOT remain deaf to the regime’s oppression and threats.”
The Vice President keeps repeating that in the event of a meeting with a North Korean, it is a message of firmness that he would pass.
“As a prerequisite for any dialogue,” he said, Pyongyang must “put denuclearization on the table.”
The atmosphere was less icy at the Blue House table where two types of kimchi, Korean fermented cabbage, were served at a meal washed down with soju, a traditional rice spirit.