US & World

North Korea is open to talks with US — according to South Korea

Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, arrives at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics on February 25, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, arrives at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics on February 25, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Pool/Getty Images

As the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang that saw the two Koreas come together — if briefly — came to a close on Sunday, another potential sign of détente emerged; North Korea said it was willing to hold talks with the United States, according to South Korea's presidential Blue House.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with a delegation from the North shortly before the Games' closing ceremony. A Blue House statement said the North Koreans expressed willingness to engage in a dialogue with the U.S. and that Moon stressed that talks must open as soon as possible.

The message of rapprochement was a pivot in tone for the North Sunday. Earlier in the day, reports Reuters, a statement released on state media accused the United States of stoking war on the Korean peninsula with Friday's announcement of sanctions. President Trump called the measures targeting the country's shipping industry "the heaviest sanctions ever imposed."

North Korea's Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik perform during the figure skating gala event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 25, 2018.
North Korea's Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik perform during the figure skating gala event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 25, 2018.
MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

Trump's message delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday was not centered on talks with Pyongyang. Instead, he said if sanctions don't work, "we'll have to go to phase 2," although he didn't spell out what phase 2 would be, he added, "Phase 2 may be a very rough thing — may be very, very unfortunate for the world."

Trump has said in the past that he is open to holding talks with the North, but the administration's prerequisite has been that Pyongyang admit willingness to abandon its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

According to a Feb. 13 New York Times report citing senior administration officials, the White House shifted its stance to one more open to holding preliminary talks with North Korea, following Vice President Pence's visit to the Games:

"For months, the White House has rejected the idea of meeting with North Korea unless it took measurable steps toward giving up its nuclear stockpile and curbing its provocative behavior. Now, though, with Mr. Moon determined to engage with the North, these officials said the administration has decided on a course correction."

South Korea's president said through a spokesman Sunday that the inter-Korean relationship must develop together with the one between the U.S. and the North.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, IOC president Thomas Bach, North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong greet players from the combined Koreas women's ice hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, IOC president Thomas Bach, North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong greet players from the combined Koreas women's ice hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Felipe Dana/AP

The North Korean delegation was led by Kim Yong Chol, whom the South accuses of orchestrating a deadly attack on a South Korean warship in 2010, reports Reuters. His visit sparked outraged protests among some South Koreans.

Ivanka Trump, leading the U.S. delegation, attended the closing ceremony seated next to Moon's wife. But though she sat in front of Kim Yong Chol, she was not scheduled to meet with the North Korean delegation during the weekend trip.

The Blue House said the world has been moved by the joint Korean Olympic team as well as the two countries marching together.

A man stands on a viewing platform covered with ribbons bearing goodwill messages as he looks towards North Korea from Goseong Unification Observatory on February 22, 2018 in Goseong-gun, South Korea.
A man stands on a viewing platform covered with ribbons bearing goodwill messages as he looks towards North Korea from Goseong Unification Observatory on February 22, 2018 in Goseong-gun, South Korea.
Carl Court/Getty Images
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