While three feet of ice will not be thawed in a day, as the Chinese saying goes, there have been more positive developments in efforts to melt the ice on the Korean Peninsula since Kim Jong-un, leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, paid a visit to China last week.
After his trip to Beijing, Kim met with visiting International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, during the latter’s three-day visit to Pyongyang, which ended on Saturday, and they agreed that the IOC will help the DPRK prepare for the participation in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
Kim and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, also joined an audience of hundreds in Pyongyang on Sunday for a performance by Republic of Korean K-pop singers, the first time such a show has been held in more than a decade.
Both developments were further signs of the DPRK’s bid for rapprochement and engagement with the outside world, which of course is crucial if the forthcoming dialogues and any negotiations aimed at the peaceful denuclearization of the peninsula are to yield the desired outcomes.
However, this desirable momentum is vulnerable due to the mistrust that has festered over the years, and it could easily be disrupted or squandered. Not least by the joint military exercises between the US and the ROK that began on Sunday with more than 11,500 US and nearly 300,000 ROK troops taking part. The war games, known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, are being staged ahead of the summit between the DPRK and the ROK scheduled for April 27 and a meeting between the US and DPRK leaders penciled in for May.
Considering that the drills normally run about two months and the DPRK views them as a serious provocation, that the proposed talks would be held under the shadow of the US-ROK war games is hardly conducive to amicable discussions.
The thaw on the peninsula should not be taken lightly; it is a precious opportunity to start unraveling this complex historical knot. China hopes all the parties concerned will exercise the utmost restraint and jointly safeguard the current trend of reconciliation. Nothing is more important now than cherishing and sustaining the current thaw on the Korean Peninsula and ensuring there is an atmosphere favorable for dialogue to bear fruit.