South Korea is expected to try to use the momentum generated by North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics this year to encourage the reclusive regime to the denuclearization talks.
Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (second from left) meets with top policymakers to be briefed on this year's major policies on foreign affairs and national security in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)
The foreign, defense, unification, culture and veterans ministries jointly briefed Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon on policies they will push for this year during an annual New Year policy briefing. Their shared themes were “improvement of diplomacy, security and inter-Korean relations” and “peace on the Korean Peninsula which begins in PyeongChang.”
A foreign ministry official during a pre-briefing held Thursday said that it became the government’s “main task” to develop the momentum of inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation beyond PyeongChang.
Touting the North’s participation in the Olympics for creating “favorable” conditions for easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, he said that the government will strive to have “North Korea and the US enter the process of dialogue.”
"In particular, we emphasized that we will focus our diplomatic capacity on inducing North Korea and the U.S. into a dialogue process so that it could create a virtuous cycle of inter-Korean talks resulting in North Korea-U.S. talks," the official said.
North Korea agreed to participate in the Winter Games to be held in the South from Feb. 9-25, which many see as a sign of a thaw on the peninsula after years of tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.
Three rounds of inter-Korean talks were held to work out details of their participation in the Winter Games. They agreed to form a joint women’s hockey team and march together under a “unification” flag at the opening ceremony.
This file photo taken on April 06, 2017 shows outh Korean fans waving "unification flags" as they cheer for North Korean players during the IIHF women's world ice hockey championships division II group A competition match between South Korea and North Korea in Gangneung. (Reuters-Yonhap)
The Foreign Ministry said that it will try to secure support from the international community for the ongoing inter-Korean dialogue to pave the way for the peaceful resolution of the nuclear crisis.
It also added it would strengthen diplomatic relations with the four regional powers -- the US, China, Russia and Japan -- over various issues such as the North Korea crisis and historical row while seeking to diversify its diplomatic portfolio in a way that would maximize national interests.
The Unification Ministry said that it planned to continue to engage in dialogue with the communist state to improve inter-Korean relations and achieve lasting peace on the peninsula. Its plans also include a broader assistance for North Korean defectors.
The Defense Ministry said that it will maintain its readiness to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, but at the same time work hard to diffuse military tensions between the two Koreas through agreed-upon inter-Koren military dialogue.
The ministry also unveiled a plan to reform the organization. It said it will reduce the number of troops to half a million by 2022 and the mandatory service period of rank-and-file soldiers will be shortened to 18 months in stages from the current 21 months.
The Culture Ministry said it will continue inter-Korean cultural exchanges by holding joint cultural events even after the Olympics.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)