- South Korean Presidential Blue House via Getty Images
- Kim Jong Un invited South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang, but Moon gave a non-committal response.
- Moon’s lack of enthusiasm meant the offer was not publicized by state-run media in North Korea.
- However, by sending Kim’s sister North Korea indicated its seriousness in hosting an Inter-Korean summitt which Moon is still likely to accept.
As North Korea’s delegation to the Winter Olympics returned over the weekend, the country seemed to completely ignore an invitation Kim Jong Un had extended to South Korea’s President Moon Jae In.
Sunday’s frontpage of Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of Korea’s ruling party, prominently featured a meeting between Moon and Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, but made no mention of the invitation.
The day prior, at one of the high-level meetings between the two countries in years, Moon was invited to Pyongyang “at an early date,” and responded to the North Korean delegation by saying, “Let’s create conditions to make it happen.”
According to experts, its possible North Korea may have taken the response as a slight.
“Invitations extended by the Supreme Leader are not supposed to be declined, and President Moon Jae In was rather non-committal about his intentions to meet with Kim Jong Un “when the right conditions exist,” Leonid Petrov, a Korean studies expert at the Australian National University, told Business Insider.
“Certainly, this lukewarm response is not acceptable for the North Korean propaganda.”
Despite Moon’s slightly elusive response, Petrov believes North Koreans would have been excited about the first step towards a new Inter-Korean summit that could open dialogue about potential peace on the Korean peninsula.
But it was a difficult position for Moon, who is in favour of dialogue with North Korea but has suffered a decline in approval ratings since spearheading efforts to have a joint Korean presence at the Olympic Games.
There’s also history and expense to contend with – before the last two Inter-Korean summits, in 2000 and 2007, the summit was conditional on South Korea giving North Korea large sums of money.
But the invitation to visit Pyongyang was barely a surprise.
“In East Asia serious business is traditionally done only through personal contacts, where trust-building process may take time before the parties feel 100% confident to open their cards and team-up to achieve the greater common goal,” Petrov said.
“It was expected from the outset that by sending the highest possible level of negotiators – the nominal President and the potential heiress to the regime – across the front-line, the North Korean leader was serious about resuming the dialogue with the South,” he added.