North and South Korea have agreed to sit down for their first formal talks in more than two years. The talks next week will seek to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics in the South and to improve their ties.
The fact that the two countries have agreed to talks is itself a big step, but they have a history of failing to move past their deep animosity. The announcement came hours after the US said it will delay annual military exercises with South Korea until after the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month.
North Korea has accepted South Korea’s offer to meet at the border village of Panmunjom on Tuesday to discuss Olympic cooperation and how to improve overall ties. Panmunjom is where a North Korean soldier dashed across the border into the South in November.
Over the past few weeks there has been plenty of sabre rattling involving the nuclear armed country.
In his New Year’s address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he was willing to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics but added that he has a “nuclear button” on his desk to fire atomic weapons at the United States. US President Donald Trump quickly responded that he had a bigger and more powerful “nuclear button” of his own. The Trump administration has said all options are on the table to end the North Korean nuclear standoff, including military measures.
The world has been calling for an end to rhetoric and the beginning of talks to pull the country away from the brink of a nuclear catastrophe.
Any movement towards this is a step in the right direction. But much more needs to be done.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has welcomed the North’s positive attitude towards its participation in the Pyeongchang Games and had repeatedly called for inter-Korean talks since taking office. His desire to realise the North’s participation in the Games and tout it as his administration’s achievement in a domestic political appeal is discernible.
North Korea has only agreed to talk. No agreement has been signed and no proposals mooted. In the light of this, it is important that countries around the world continue to put pressure on North Korea so that a decision is made. The world cannot afford a nuclear war and it must not allow anyone to threaten the lives of millions of innocent people.
Both Koreas must take full advantage of this opportunity to hold more talks leading to a lasting peace.