North and South Korea to March Together Under the "Unification" Flag in Winter Olympics
North and South Korea, which were at loggerhead till last month, on Wednesday said that both countries would march under a single flag during the opening ceremony of the upcoming Winter Olympics.
The development comes amid talks aimed at reducing tensions between the two nations, which are technically at war since 1953.
The two Koreas are also set to field a joint women's ice hockey team to participate in the Games, which are to take place from February 9-25 in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang. It is located just a relatively small distance away from the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that has separated the countries since 1953, when an armistice treaty was signed.
This would mark the third time the two nations compete under the same banner at a sporting event, following the 1991 ping pong world championship and the Under-20 soccer world cup held that same year.
Korean athletes from both states had previously marched under the same "unification" flag -- a light-blue silhouette of the peninsula on a white background -- during the opening ceremonies for the Sidney 2000 and Athens 2004 Summer Olympics.
It was at the DMZ's Joint Security Area in Panmunjom that delegations from both Koreas, holding the first high-level talks in over two years, struck the deal, signalling an implicit detente in the diplomatic tensions that had seen a dramatic uptick in the past few years amid the North's ongoing ballistic missile testing programme.
While many welcomed the progress in the rapprochement between two countries that are technically still engaged in a fratricidal conflict frozen in time by a 65-year-old armistice, Japan and United States ‘cautioned’ against mistaking Pyongyang's diplomatic overtures for a radical shift in its foreign policy.
For instance, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono warned that the world should avoid being blinded by what he described as a North Korean "charm offensive".
Washington has maintained its stance that it will not ‘accept’ any peace process with ‘nuclear’ North Korea. The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday at the sidelines of the Vancouver summit also rejected the ‘double freeze’ proposal by Russia and China to ease the tension in the Korean peninsula.
“We reject a ‘freeze for freeze’ approach in which legitimate defensive military exercises are placed on the same level of equivalency as the DPRK’s unlawful actions,” Tillerson said. “The pressure campaign will continue until North Korea takes decisive steps to denuclearize.”
The summit on North Korea was jointly hosted by US and Canada on Tuesday and was attended mostly by countries that supported Seoul during the 1950s Korean War against the North. It agreed to force more “unilateral sanctions” to put further pressure on Pyongyang through additional economic sanctions above those imposed by the UN Security Council.
The recent peace process between the two Koreas began after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in his New Year's address, expressed willingness to establish dialogue with South Korea and send an athletic delegation to the Winter Olympics.
(with inputs from IANS)
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