Sputnik: How significant is Kim Jong-Un's sister's visit to South Korea and the meeting with the South's president in particular, in your view?
Tong Zhao: I think it's a very significant development. Obviously, Miss Kim Yo-Jong, she is the younger sister of Kim Jong-Un that the leader of North Korea has a very close personal relationship with the North Korean top leader and therefore her visit bears special meaning to South Korea. She also delivered a personal invitation from Kim Jong-Un for President Moon Jae-in to visit North Korea sometime this year. And given her high status in North Korea, she would also be an ideal person if the Unites States would like to reach out to North Korea. So, I think the fact that Kim Jong-Un was willing to send his younger sister to South Korea the first time that a family member of the Kim Jong-Un party set foot in South Korea, I think by itself is very significant.
Sputnik: North Korean leader reportedly invited South Korean president to Pyongyang. How much of a game changer would this meeting be if ever took place?
Tong Zhao: If it can take place, I think it would represent a major breakthrough in the inter-Korean relationship. The last summit meeting between North Korean and South Korean leaders took place in 2007, more than ten years ago. And if we consider how tense the situation had been just a few weeks ago over the peninsula, this invitation really represents something big. However, I think it's too early to say that this meeting will take place, because ultimately it depends on the attitude of the United States.
Sputnik: We know that the Olympic Games is a great medium for connectivity of people and countries and nations. How much do the Olympic Games contribute to the relations between the two neighboring countries? Do you think that these Winter Olympics have been a contributory factor?
Tong Zhao: Oh, absolutely. I think, both North and South Koreans view these Winter Games as a perfect opportunity to thaw their relations and improve their ties. North Korea's objective is very clear. They showed off their nuclear weapons just one day before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, and then, still, their athletes were welcomed to these Winter Games. That sends an implicit message that North Korea can maintain its nuclear weapons and still be welcomed by the international community to participate in this important international event. So the North Korean objective is to keep its existing nuclear weapons and then focus on improving its relations with the outside world on that basis.
Sputnik: What's your particular point of view on President Moon's statement that an early resumption of dialogue between the United States now on the north is needed for the development of the South- and North Korean relationship? How likely is this resumption at this point?
Tong Zhao: Right now, South Korea is in a very difficult position. President Moon is very sandwiched between the North Korean leader and the American president. He has to cater to the wishes on both sides, and his wiggle-room is very small. We have seen a major improvement in the inter-Korean relationship, but again, as President Moon Jae-in said, in order for the north-south relationship to improve further, it would require a direct talk between North Korea and the United States; it would require some progress in engaging North Korea about its existing nuclear capabilities. North Korea has to make some concessions about its nuclear weapons.
That's the precondition for the US talking with North Korea, and all the signals so far we've seen from Washington are very stubborn. The US insists that North Korea has to commit to the denuclearization and be willing to talk about denuclearization before any direct talk can happen. I think the US knows that the sanctions on North Korea will take time to have the full impact on North Korea. The US is not in a hurry to talk with North Korea right now. So I think that makes it less likely that we will see a direct improvement of North Korea-US relations in the near-term future.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.