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May 22, 2018, 7:43 pm IST
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N. Korea wins Olympic 'diplomatic gold'

N. Korea wins Olympic 'diplomatic gold'

S. Sivadas, Feb 12, 2018

North Korea has emerged as the early favourite to grab one of the Winter Olympics’ most important medals: the diplomatic gold. That is the assessment of a former South Korean government minister and political experts who say the North has used the Games to drive a wedge between South Korea and its US ally and to potentially ease pressure on its sanctions-crippled state.

In barely a month since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un surprised the world and said his nation was ready to join the Games, the South Korean President,   Moon Jae-in, has delayed military exercises, feted Kim’s sister at the Pyeongchang Olympics and given conditional consent to a bilateral summit in the North.

'North Korea clearly appears to be winning the gold,' said Kim Sung-han, who served as Korea’s vice foreign minister in 2012-2013. 'Its delegation and athletes are getting the entire spotlight, and Kim Jong-un’s sister is showing elegant smiles before the South Korean public and the world.'

The US Vice-President,   Mike Pence, who attended the opening ceremony along with the North Koreans, said 'no daylight' existed between the United States, South Korea and Japan on the need to isolate North Korea. He said the North was using the Games for crude propaganda. But it was Pence who cast one of the loneliest figures at the event. He remained seated when the joint Korean team entered the stadium, in contrast to Moon who stood along with Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, to applaud.

The warm North-South body language not only fanned talk of a split between Seoul and Washington, it contrasted with a cold encounter between South Korea and Japan, an ally in US-led efforts to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear programme.

The Japanese Prime Minister,   Shinzo Abe, who looked uncomfortable at times during the opening ceremony, irritated his hosts by telling the South Korean leader that joint South Korea-US military drills should be promptly resumed after the Games.

To pave the way for the North’s participation at Pyeongchang, South Korea had delayed the annual exercises with US forces, which usually take place between February and March, until after the Olympics.

'Now is not the time to postpone US-South Korea military exercises. It is important to move forward with the drills as planned,’ Abe said, according to South’s Blue House.  Moon replied that it was not appropriate for Abe to have raised the issue. 



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