"We are a sad, divided nation and when it comes to solving this problem, there is no South or North Korea", said Jo Jung-rae, one of South Korea's most well-known novelists, in an interview last week. The world watched intently for any sign of progress, but none emerged.
The frame for the still-nascent diplomatic path forward is this: The United States and its allies will not stop imposing steep and escalating costs on the Kim Jong Un regime until it takes clear steps toward denuclearization. Standing in front of the Cheonan, I asked Pence whether he had been able to find common ground with Moon during their Thursday evening bilateral meeting and dinner. He said they had.
"We should firmly keep in mind that any talks where denuclearisation is not a precondition only buy North Korea more time to complete its nuclear capabilities while they fool us with their peace offensive façade", said Chang Je-won, spokesman for the Liberty Korea Party.
"President Moon and I reflected last night on the need to do something fundamentally different". "Then and only then will the world community consider negotiating and making changes in the sanctions regime that's placed on them today".
Many experts say Kim's overture is meant to use improved ties with Seoul as a way to weaken USA -led worldwide sanctions toughened after its series of big weapons tests previous year that include its sixth and largest nuclear test explosion and three intercontinental ballistic missile launches. The idea is, there will be no progress on negotiations without first seeing progress on denuclearization. Meanwhile, sanctions will continue to be strengthened.
South and North Koreans marched together under a unified flag at the games' opening ceremony. -South Korea joint exercises planned for April.
That would give all sides at least a few months to see whether real progress can be made.
But analysts expect the momentum to prove fragile and unsustainable once the drills - habitually slammed by the North as a practice for invasion, to which it often responds with missile tests - resume after the Paralympics. But the Trump administration is now willing to sit down and talk with the regime while that pressure campaign is ongoing.
On Saturday Kim Yo Jong "courteously" handed over a personal letter from the North Korean leader to Moon and told him of her brother's "intention", North Korea's state news agency KCNA said, without elaborating what that was.
Kim Yong Nam, the North's nominal head of state who was also at Saturday's meeting, said "even unexpected difficulties and ordeals could be surely overcome and the future of reunification brought earlier when having a firm will and taking courage and determination to usher in a new heyday of inter-Korean relations".
The 2018 Winter Olympics, now ongoing in South Korea's mountainous Pyeongchang district, is the 23rd event of its kind in modern history.
Pyongyang conducted its largest nuclear test past year and in November tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile that experts said has the range to reach anywhere in the United States.
Russia, which has been banned from the Games for doping, said days before the opening ceremony that any allegations linking Russian hackers to attacks on the infrastructure connected to the Pyeongchang Olympic Games were unfounded. But the diplomatic games have really just begun.
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