North Korea will send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korean officials said Tuesday.
According to the New York Times, after the first high-level talks between the two countries in more than two years, North Korea agreed to send athletes to the games. North Korea will also send a delegation including government officials and cheerleaders.
The games will take place about 50 miles from the Demilitarized Zone, the boundary between the two countries, which are still technically at war. An armistice prevents active conflict between the countries.
“We have high expectations that the Olympics turn out to be a peace festival with special guests from the North,” South Korea’s unification minister, Cho Myoung-gyon, said, NBC News reported.
According to NBC News, Moon Chung-in, a special adviser on foreign affairs and national security to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, said, “When the ancient Greeks used to hold the Olympics, they held a truce.”
“We are living in a civilized world. It is the logical choice,” Chung-in said.
What does it mean?
The move is a significant breakthrough after months of escalating tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has conducted a series of missile tests and threatened South Korea, Japan, and the United States. The tests increased tensions with the United States, and the dictator traded bellicose taunts with President Donald Trump.
The BBC reported that experts say Kim has become “increasingly fearful” of a preemptive military strike against him by the United States and decided “he must do something to de-escalate tensions.”
Some observers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), have been critical of allowing North Korea to participate in the games, a show of peace, after their nuclear threats. Graham indicated on Twitter that he would support boycotting the games if the North Koreans participate.
Allowing Kim Jong Un’s North Korea to participate in #WinterOlympics would give legitimacy to the most illegitimate regime on the planet.
I’m confident South Korea will reject this absurd overture and fully believe that if North Korea goes to the Winter Olympics, we do not.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 1, 2018
According to The Hill, Trump told reporters earlier this week that he “would love to see” North Korea participate in the Olympics and maintain dialogue afterward.
“I would love to see it go far beyond the Olympics, absolutely. And at the appropriate time, we’ll get involved. I like the idea of their dealing on the Olympics. That should be between those two countries,” he said.
According to Agence France-Presse, just two athletes from the communist country have qualified for the games so far.
North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea.