ECLECTIC RANT: North and South Korean Olympic Games mini-detente

Ralph E. Stone
Friday February 16, 2018 - 06:14:00 PM

Vice President Mike Pence represented the U.S. at the Olympic opening ceremonies in PyeongChang, South Korea. Athletes from North Korea and South Korea marching under the same flag in the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games was a significant symbolic moment for many. The North Korean delegation was led by Kim Yo Jong, the trusted younger sister of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un 

Feeling the Olympic spirit, Pence — who stood only to cheer for Team USA — otherwise remained seated. In addition, Pence delivered a blistering attack on North Korea’s regime and threatened new sanctions. It was almost as if Trump and Pence do not want any kind of detente to happen. 

Clearly, North Korea’s Olympics-related propaganda offensive had a two-pronged approach — belligerence toward the U.S. and an olive branch to the progressive government in South Korea. Kim Jong-un was appealing to a sense of Korean brotherliness as he tries to drive a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea. 

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in early on declared willingness to meet Kim Jong Un "at any time, at any place" -- circumstances permitting. During the Olympics, North Korean representatives will met with Moon Jae-in, but did not meet with Pence.  

The North Korean delegation left on February 11, with an invitation to Moon Jae-in to meet in P’yŏngyang for future talks. 

Whether the visit to the Games and invitation for future talks are propaganda ploys or not, the U.S. has little to lose by letting the mini-detente play out. The alternative is more back-and-forth bellicose rhetoric that could lead to a nuclear confrontation. But perhaps that’s what Trump wants.