By Alex Jensen
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday called for his government to “quickly” act on his North Korean counterpart’s offer of dialogue a day earlier.
The North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, also offered during his New Year’s address to send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in the South in February.
“I view chairman Kim Jong-un's remarks about sending a North Korean delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics and holding government-level dialogue as a response to our proposal to turn the [Games] into a groundbreaking chance to improve South-North relations and establish peace,” Moon said at a Cabinet meeting covered by local news agency Yonhap.
The South Korean leader had campaigned on the promise of trying to improve ties with Pyongyang before taking office last May. Instead, tensions on the peninsula spiked as North Korea went on to carry out its sixth ever nuclear test in September alongside numerous ballistic missile launches amid threats against the United States.
While Seoul’s ally the U.S. has maintained that the North should demonstrate its willingness to denuclearize before being rewarded with talks, the Moon administration is keen on dialogue without preconditions.
However, Seoul remains committed to sanctions aimed at reversing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“An improvement in inter-Korean relations may not go a separate way from (efforts) to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, so I ask the foreign ministry to closely consult with our allies and the international community so that we may push for an improvement in the inter-Korean relationship and the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue at the same time,” Moon added.