According to reports, North Korea quashed scheduled back-channel talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after the Trump administration insinuated the talks would be heavily confrontational.
North Korea pulled out a day after a memorable non-encounter at the 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies between Pence and Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. Pence and his wife enjoyed the festivities as Kim sat just a few feet away.
In response to questions as to why Pence chose not to greet Kim, he said, “I didn’t believe it was proper for the United States of America to give any countenance or attention in that form to someone who’s not merely the sister of the dictator but is the leader of the propaganda effort.”
While Pence ignored what many saw as an opportunity for détente, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in greeted Kim with a warm handshake, as she was the first member of her ruling family to travel to South Korea since the end of the Korean War. A New Year’s Day speech by Kim Jong Un opened the door to a diplomatic thaw. After uniting parts of their Olympic teams, both countries are now engaged in high-level talks for the first time in more than two years.
We’ll discuss this Olympics diplomacy with Bruce Cumings, professor of history at the University of Chicago. He’s author of numerous books on the Korean peninsula including, Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American-East Asian Relations at the End of the Century and The Korean War: A History and North Korea: Another Country.