olympic deal will do little to disarm n korea
Last Updated : GMT 09:03:51
Almaghrib Today, almaghrib today
Almaghrib Today, almaghrib today
Last Updated : GMT 09:03:51
Almaghrib Today, almaghrib today

To curb Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities

Olympic deal will do little to disarm N. Korea

Almaghrib Today, almaghrib today

Almaghrib Today, almaghrib today Olympic deal will do little to disarm N. Korea

A live broadcast of South Korea's President Moon Jae-In delivering his New Year's address
Seoul - Al Maghrib Today

An agreement for North Korea to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in the South signals a step change in relations, analysts say, but will do little to curb Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities.

The North and South on Tuesday held their first official dialogue in more than two years, agreeing that Pyongyang would send a large delegation to next month's Winter Olympics and promising further high-level talks.

The meeting came after months of confrontation over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, with both parties seeking to dial down tensions.

"Both sides wanted to win and they got it," said John Delury, a professor at Seoul's Yonsei University.

Seoul and Olympic organisers have been keen for Pyongyang -- which boycotted the 1988 Summer Games in South Korea's capital -- to take part in what they repeatedly proclaimed as a "peace Olympics" in Pyeongchang.

But the North gave no sign it would do so until leader Kim Jong-Un's New Year speech. It pursued its banned weapons programmes in defiance of United Nations sanctions, launched missiles capable of reaching the US and staged its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Games is a tacit guarantee that it will refrain from such provocations during February and March, when the Olympics and Paralympics are held.

Seoul and Washington also agreed earlier to delay their annual joint military drills -- which Pyongyang views as a rehearsal for invasion -- until after the events.

Go Myong-Hyun, an analyst at Seoul-based Asan Institute of Policy Studies, said North Korea secured so-called "strategic composure" -- shelter from a possible US military strike which has repeatedly been described as an "option on the table" by Trump administration officials.

"Washington can't take any military action against the North during inter-Korean talks because it doesn't want to be blamed for any hiccups," Go said.

But what happens when the lights are turned off at Pyeongchang and geopolitics returns to normal on the peninsula?

- Moon's dilemma -

"Whether this opening can be exploited to promote peace and security beyond the term of the Olympics games themselves... remains to be seen," wrote Scott Snyder of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Despite a handful of agreements reached Tuesday, North Korea made no promises on its nuclear and missile programmes and its chief delegate lashed out when the issue was raised.

Ri Son-Gwon told South Korean journalists that denuclearisation was not an issue for the two Koreas to discuss, saying: "The target of all our nuclear and hydrogen bombs and ICBMs and all other sophisticated weapons is the US."

There were "many problems" to settle between the two sides, he added, warning of "unexpected obstacles" down the road.

Analysts say South Korea could find itself in a tight spot, sandwiched between its desire to improve ties with Pyongyang and to work with Washington to denuclearise the North.

The United States has continuously stressed that the talks should lead to efforts for the North's complete and verifiable denuclearisation.

"We all know the motive behind North Korea's sudden willingness to participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics," said an editorial in South Korea's mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

"It is to divide the South Korean government, which wants inter-Korean talks, and the US government, which wants the denuclearisation of the North," it said.

President Moon Jae-In has long supported engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table over banned weapons programmes that have alarmed the US and the global community, and have seen Pyongyang subjected to multiple sets of United Nations sanctions.

But the US has said the regime must stop nuclear tests in order for negotiations with Washington to take place.

"At some point, South Korea will face a dilemma between pushing ahead with inter-Korean ties or joining Washington's efforts to dismantle the North's nuclear programmes," said Kim Hyun-Wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy.

Doveish President Moon may not easily give up on the progress with Pyongyang, Kim said, "which is bound to create noise in the alliance".

Source: AFP

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