Ivanka Trump claps for North, South Korean Olympians

Glen Norman
February 26, 2018

The visit by Kim Yong Chol, who led an eight-member high-level delegation that crossed the Demilitarized Zone in the morning, is the final piece of the games-led diplomacy that has dominated headlines from Pyeongchang.

But the visit by Kim, accused of masterminding past attacks on the South, has sparked angry protests from conservatives. North Korea insists on being recognized as a nuclear state. Leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong attended the opening ceremony. They did not appear to interact when South Korean President Moon Jae-in shook hands with dignitaries at the beginning of the ceremony.

Some analysts said that a meeting between Hooker and Choe would be a good way to start easing tensions that have risen over the past year as North Korea has fired missiles and conducted a nuclear test, while the Trump administration has threatened military action to stop it. But the USA says it must first take concrete steps toward disarming.

"President Moon pointed out the urgency to hold [a] dialogue between North Korea and the U.S.in order to. resolve the issues on the Korean Peninsula and to improve inter-Korean relations", according to the South Korean statement.

However, the United States, in recent weeks, has indicated it is willing to engage in dialogue with North Korea, while continuing its maximum pressure campaign.

The general's visit comes shortly after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed "great satisfaction" over a visit to the Olympics opening ceremony by a high level delegation which included his sister Kim Yo Jong.

Yong-chol made the remark during a meeting with Moon in PyeongChang, the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

But the closing days of the Games were overshadowed by the USA announcement that it was imposing its largest package of sanctions aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs.

Moon also did not immediately accept an invitation passed on by Kim Yo Jong from her brother to a summit in Pyongyang, saying the right conditions must be created.

It's possible the U.S. and North Korea delegations could come into close contact in the VIP Box in the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium during the final theatrics of a Winter Olympics that is winding down after 16 days.

Despite an ongoing inter-Korean detente, the United States is toughening its sanctions against North Korea.

North Korea denounced the sanctions in a statement carried on its state media and said a blockade by the United States would be considered an act of war.

Trump imposed fresh sanctions against North Korea late last week as part of the pressure effort.

Kim Yong Chol himself is blacklisted under Seoul's unilateral sanctions against the North, which subject him to an assets freeze.

Kim's presence was met with protests from many South Koreans, including lawmakers, who have blamed Kim's widely believed role in orchestrating a series of provocations, namely the sinking of the South Korea's Cheonan - a South Korean naval ship that was hit with a torpedo in 2010.

But it was too early to take the North's comments as a major breakthrough.

Trump is accompanied by Allison Hooker, the Korea director on the National Security Council and a key player in the White House's policy on North Korea.

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