Putin Says North Korean Leader Is 'Shrewd, Mature Politician'


The surprise offer of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in his New Year message for participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month has set off a chain of events, which may have major consequences for the Korean peninsula and beyond.

Talking about Pongyang's nuclear and missile programmes today, the Russian President said: "I think that Mr Kim Jong-un has obviously won this round. I like it very much what I'm seeing. hopefully a lot of good things are going to work out".

On January 9, South and North Korea held a "historic" meeting after a gap of two years. He has also always stated his goal "to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem", but clearly it is his second priority. -North Korean talks. A senior State Department official told me he hopes face-to-face talks will start before the Olympics end; the US will characterize the goal as eventual de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The truth is there are serious limits as to how far North Korea can push the USA and South Korea apart. Trump also again indicated he's open to direct United States talks with North Korea under the right circumstances.

The result of Tuesday's talks was a joint statement from the two Koreas, which pledged further dialogue on the DPRK's participation in the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics, as well as on military and diplomatic issues. Representatives of Democratic Party leader Choo Mi-ae, who had a closed-door meeting with Cho the day before, said North Korea had made a request to Seoul to "allow the use of air travel for performance artists and other visitors with equipment, and the land route at Mt. Kumgang for other visitors".

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Trump told reporters at the White House after his call with Moon to discuss Tuesday's North-South talks, the first since 2015. North Korean athletes and spectators will attend the Pyeongchang Olympics. Furthermore, there is no guarantee the USA could destroy North Korea's whole nuclear programme in a short air campaign. He also called for North Korea to move towards denuclearisation - a plea which is unlikely to find any response from the North.

North Korea will send a team down to PyeongChang, North Korean athletes and officials will preen before the world's media, and the biggest stories from the Games will not be who wins what but which North Koreans are shaking hands with which South Koreans, how honest their smiles are and exactly what they are murmuring to one another.

In part, some analysts suspect South Korea's enthusiasm for diplomacy now is in part to avoid embarrassment or incidents during the Winter Olympics, which they fear might otherwise be disrupted by North Korean terrorism or cyber attacks. These remarks hint at Trump's confidence that, even if Pyongyang does have such intentions, the USA is capable of containing them.

"Security concerns over the North's nuclear threats during the Pyeongchang Olympics have evaporated at a stroke", Park Sung-Bae, a sports industry expert from South Korea's Hanyang University, told AFP.

Ri Son Gwon, the head of the North's delegation, joked that bilateral relations are "more frozen" than the winter weather.