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Cheong Wa Dae still pins hopes on Beijing Olympics for inter-Korean summit

President Moon Jae-in delivers his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in delivers his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
An inter-Korean summit on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February is still a possibility, President Moon Jae-in’s senior secretary for communications, Park Soo-hyun, said Thursday.

“We are making efforts for peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, with all possibilities remaining on the table,” Park said during a radio interview with MBC when asked about the possibility of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attending the Beijing Games.

South Korea has sought to use the upcoming Olympics as an occasion for rapprochement with the reclusive regime, but uncertainties are mounting.

Early this month, the International Olympic Committee suspended the North Korean Olympic Committee until the end of 2022 as punishment for Pyongyang’s unilateral decision not to compete in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

“Despite some skepticism about Kim’s attendance at the Olympics, there are also expectations about China playing a political role in resolving the issue,” Park said of the IOC decision.

Park’s remarks came after Moon reiterated his push to declare a formal end to the Korean War in his keynote speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. In an unusual move, the president mentioned the names of signatories to the envisioned declaration -- the two Koreas, the US and China.

Park called an end-of-war declaration a symbolic and political act that could be the starting point of trust-building among the nations toward the ultimate goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

The president had made similar suggestions in his previous UN speeches, but the response from North Korea has been lukewarm so far.

“The issue can be discussed promptly once the North returns to the negotiating table with the US,” Park said, noting that North Korea had agreed to such a declaration during the inter-Korean summit in 2018.

In the meantime, opposition parties criticized Moon’s UN speech for not mentioning North Korea’s recent ballistic missile tests in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. In response, Park said, “The government seeks to make the best decision considering many situations.”

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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