Home / World News / North and South Korea begin efforts to thaw relations in formal talks

North and South Korea begin efforts to thaw relations in formal talks

Officials from both North and South Korea have begun their first formal talks in more than two years.

The meeting is being held at the village of Panmunjom, which sits on the border between the two nations.

On the agenda is the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and efforts to thaw relations between the two countries.

The meeting comes at a time of heightening tensions that has seen the most bellicose rhetoric from both the North and the US in living memory.

Recently, leaders have openly compared the size and effectiveness of their nuclear “buttons” to the dismay and alarm of hundreds of millions.

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A coach carrying South Korean officials makes its way to Panmunjom
Image:
A coach carrying South Korean officials makes its way to Panmunjom

Those expecting an easing of tensions to follow these talks may need to manage their expectations.

They follow an olive branch invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an unusual New Year address in turn accepting a conciliatory gesture from the South’s new President Moon Jae-in, who invited Pyongyang to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics.

But a lot more than sport may be motivating Mr Kim. He may be seeking to exploit tensions between the South and its patrons, the US, under Donald Trump.

Mr Moon has openly differed with Trump by arguing for economic and diplomatic co-operation with North Korea, as the American president pushed for the opposite, over the isolated state’s continuing missile and nuclear tests and progress towards a nuclear missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

South Korea’s President also angered the Americans by claiming they had given him a veto over any US military action against the North.

Those looking for signs that tensions will ease may be disappointed
Image:
Those looking for signs that tensions will ease may be disappointed

Kim Jong Un will use these talks to drive a wedge between the South and the US hoping to divide them further.

He will hope that will make it harder for sanctions to be tightened against his regime.

Sanctions, in particular Chinese restrictions on some fuel imports, are thought to be making life increasingly difficult for the Kim regime.

But he will also hope it makes preemptive military action against the North less likely.


Kim Jong-Un

Video:
Body Language: Kim Jong Un

Reports from Washington suggest policymakers and military planners are now preparing for what was previously unthinkable, a first strike US military operation against the North. That would most likely lead to a North Korean retaliation that would in turn kill tens of thousands in South Korea. Some Trump officials have indicated that may be a price they are prepared to pay.

A rapprochement between the North and South may ironically increase tensions over the by alienating an easily offended President Trump.

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