North Korea welcomed the New Year by reopening the hotline, and extending an olive branch to South Korea. The intention was noble and the North’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics was like the icing on the cake. The event was a success, the bonds of friendship strengthened, and the ground was set for preliminary talks

CNN reports that Moon Jae-in is sending a High Level 10-member delegation to Pyongyang to discuss peace initiatives with their counterparts in the North. The agenda will cover inter-Korean relations and could also establish conditions for dialogue between the United States and North Korea on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The delegation will return to Seoul for a debriefing, and subsequently, travel to America to share the outcome of their visit.

Pyongyang must abandon its nuclear ambitions

In November 2017, North Korea tested a new missile that had a superior performance compared to earlier ones. The North has claimed that this new Hwasong-15 nuclear missile could target any location in the United States. That sent out shock waves, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo remarked that the next step for Pyongyang could be to install a warhead on the missile. That would put America under threat.

In view of these developments, the US had agreed to meet with North Korea provided it calls a halt to its nuclear ambitions. Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in discussed the matter over the phone and agreed that denuclearization would be a precondition to any meeting.

Hence, South Korea is sending its delegation to initiate the peace process.

Are sanctions hurting Pyongyang?

The thaw in relations began with the reopening of the hotline that had been lying dormant for a long time. The 2018 Winter Olympics provided a platform for an exchange of thoughts between North Korea and South Korea. The talks nurtured hopes of peace returning to the Korean peninsula and clouds of a nuclear confrontation with the United States receding.

North Korea had threatened to nuke the United States and had identified a few probable targets. The UN imposed sanctions on the country to check Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and the effect of trade restrictions could probably be a major factor for the North to extend the olive branch.

According to Fox News, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson feels that the change in the attitude of the regime could be a result of international sanctions that are hurting. Speaking at an event at Stanford University in California, he added that South Korean President Moon Jae-in subscribes to the same line of thinking.