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martes, 16 de enero de 2018

North Korea threatens to boycott the Olympics

North Korea isn’t happy with its southern neighbor.

A news agency for the communist nation warned on Sunday that its leadership is threatening to pull out of the Winter Olympics in Seoul. This announcement comes on the heels of  South Korea’s president crediting U.S.-led pressure against the regime with spurring talks between the two countries.

Despite dialogue between the peninsular nations, North Korea is adamantly opposed to U.S. calls to curb its nuclear weapons program. Is this announcement typical North Korean bombast, or something approaching a more considerable threat?

Childish threats

A North Korean state news agency issued the threat in response to “ill-boding remarks” from South Korea last week.

“They should know that train and bus carrying our delegation to the Olympics are still in Pyongyang … The South Korean authorities had better ponder over what unfavorable results may be entailed by their impolite behavior,” the Korean Central News Agency said in a Sunday report.

The threat comes days after South Korean President Moon Jae-In credited President Trump with spurring talks between North and South Korea. Moon reportedly said at a speech last Wednesday that the U.S. president “deserved big credit for bringing about inter-Korean talks,” saying the conversation could be a result of “U.S.-led sanctions and pressure.”

The report said that Moon’s praise of Trump “casts doubt as to his intent to improve the North-South ties and build confidence” and called the South Korean government “a group of pro-U.S. traitors who are only keen on currying favor with their master and keeping their power even at the sacrifice of the Winter Olympics.”

Oddly, Kim Jong Un has not commented on the issue – but the country’s state media can be counted on to express his personal displeasure.

Olympic diplomacy

The neighboring countries engaged in talks for the first time in over two years last Tuesday. One outcome was that North Korea would send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in Seoul.

Whereas South Korea sees the Olympics as a rare opportunity to bring the two countries closer together, North Korea’s threat makes clear that it sees the Games as an opportunity to manipulate its southern neighbor.

The two sides clearly have different goals in mind. While South Korea is hoping the talks will lead to denuclearization and peace on the Peninsula, North Korea adamantly refuses to give up its nuclear weapons. North Korea shut down South Korea’s efforts to broach the subject at talks last Tuesday.

The U.S. State Department expressed interest in joining the talks in the future as well, but only under the condition that denuclearization is on the table. While the U.S. aims to isolate and pressure North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons, North Korea wants talks with the South to happen on its own terms.

While the talks between the North and South are restricted to the two countries, shared goals between the South and the U.S. make it likely that America will continue to be an unofficial third player.

The U.S. moved ships and bombers into the region last week, underscoring tensions on the Peninsula and between North Korea and the United States. South Korea and the U.S. agreed earlier this month to delay joint military drills until after the games.

Given North Korea’s track record of bombastic threats, it’s doubtful whether they will follow through. Given its beleaguered position on the world stage, it would be best for North Korea to cool off and accept the Olympics as an invitation to peace.


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