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Pyeongchang may yet be the Peace Games

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The Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, may yet turn out to be the Peace Games that South Korea had hoped for.

Early last month, there were fears that the United States or North Korea might strike some kind of blow that would set back the holding of the games so close to the border dividing the two warring Korean states. The US sent three aircraft carriers with their respective attack forces to the sea east of the Korean Peninsula in a show of force, after North Korea sent another missile across Japan to the Pacific, then boasted its missiles could now reach any city on the US mainland. There were fears that US Presdent Donald Trump might just back his own boasts of “fire and fury” with an actual attack on the North’s missile sites.

Amid these fears, the Winter Games opened last week, with the North not only sending its athletes to participate; they marched with the South’s athletes in the opening day ceremonies under a common flag featuring only a map of the Korean peninsula.

But the biggest story in the world’s newspapers was the coming of an official delegation from the North that included Kim Jong Un’s sister and close adviser Kim Yo Jong. She relayed her brother’s invitation to South Korea President Moon Jae-In to a summit meeting in Pyongyang.

Should the summit take place, it would be the first time leaders of the two Koreas would meet since 2007. The two nations are technically still at war as the Korean War of 1950-1953 which they fought ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The US, whose Vice President Mike Pence was at the Winter Games, was reported to be endorsing the proposed talks that could later lead to direct talks with the US. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also closely following developments but said he and South Korea President Mioon agreed that maximum pressure must be maintained on North Korea.

Peace in the region may still be a long way off but great big steps have been taken in the Winter Olympics in South Korea, with the participation of the North’s athletes, the coming of Kim Jong Un’s sister to speak for her brother, and the North’s offer of a summit with South Korea.

The summit may succeed in officially ending the Korean War of 65 years ago. More important, it may lead to an understanding – possibly an agreement – that will end the nuclear rhetoric and threats involving the two Koreas, Japan, and the US. Should this come to pass, the Pyeongchang Olympic Games will be remembered as truly the Peace Games.

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