North Korea has agreed to participate in the Winter Olympics scheduled to be held in South Korea next month from February 9 to 25. This has been announced by Kim Jong-un himself in the course of his New Year’s Day address to his people. His decision opens up a window of opportunity that could pave the way toward normalization of relations between the two Koreas.

Daily Mail UK reports that, in view of the decision of North Korea, its neighbor will hold talks to ensure that the Games are conducted without any hitch. A tentative date of Jan. 9 has been fixed for a meeting at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss the matter further.

The Games could bridge the gap

The decision of Kim Jong-un to send athletes of North Korea to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics could mean a temporary easing of tensions. Of course, Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, feels that improvement of relations between the North and the South would be linked to resolving the issues that involve the nuclear programs of Pyongyang. He wants officials of the concerned ministries to interact with the allies and the international community so that the event can proceed satisfactorily.

Pyeongchang, the venue of the sports event, is located in the Gangwon Province and its governor Choi Moon-soon has set the ball rolling. He has suggested that South Korea could send cruise ships to bring the participants to the venue.

It seems on Dec.18 he had met an official of the sports department of North Korea at a sports event in China. The event was an international youth football tournament and teams from both North and South Korea competed.

Efforts to normalize relations

It may be recalled that after taking over the office in May, Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, had expressed a desire to normalize relations with his neighbor.

He had talked about joint sports activities and the spread of tourism as a means to rekindle the bonds between people who had been separated for decades.

According to Straits Times, Moon Jae-in had reservations about the THAAD missile defense system. It was a decision that had been taken by the previous government and was an irritant for Moon.

He felt that the system, given by the United States, appeared to be an impediment in his efforts to close the gap with North Korea. He, therefore, indicated that the decision had been made hastily and his government should have the final say on whether to deploy it. Obviously, he wanted to give elbow room to Kim Jong-un.

While extending an olive branch to the South on the issue of the Winter Olympics, Kim has added that he would continue to mass-produce nuclear warheads to tackle America. In the opinion of analysts, Kim wants to create a rift between Seoul and Washington.