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Mattis skeptical of North Korea’s ‘charm offensive’ at Olympics

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis speaks during a joint press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. (Ye Pingfan/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)
February 14, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is skeptical that the Korean alliance during the Olympics will result in a long-term ease of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, according to Defense News.

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“Clearly, it’s too early to say if using the Olympics in a way to reduce tensions, if that is going to have any traction once the Olympics are over,” Mattis said.

Experts are concerned that North Korea’s “charm offensive” could drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States. Weakening relations between the two counties has been one of North Korea’s goals since the Korean Armistice Agreement in the early 1950s.

Since the agreement, South Korea and the United States have been close allies and have worked together to ensure that the southern part of the peninsula is safe from attacks.

Mattis wants to be optimistic that the Olympics will help create a lasting and positive development between North and South Korea, but he feels that it’s “too early” to confidently decide.

North Korea’s recent military parade concerns Mattis and is one of the reasons why he isn’t confident that there will be a lasting change after the Olympics.

“In the midst of all this, [Kim Jong Un] ran a military parade that highlighted his ballistic missiles. That’s a very strange time if, in fact, he is trying to feel warming to the country that he has attacked repeatedly as an American puppet,” Mattis said.

At the recent Olympic opening ceremonies, analysts were alarmed to see that South Korean President Moon Jae In and Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, were interacting and directly communicating, while U.S. Vice President Mike Pence appeared to a distant figure.

Pence also refused to stand at the Olympic opening ceremony during a joint North-South Korean entrance.

CNN pointed out that the meeting between Moon and Kim Yo Jong was the most significant diplomatic meeting between North and South Korea in several decades. During the meeting, Moon was invited to meet with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Moon said he’s open to meeting with Kim and mentioned that the two nations “should accomplish this by creating the right conditions.”

In addition, Moon suggested that North Korea must put more effort into having diplomatic talks with the United States.

Despite these recent developments, Mattis isn’t concerned about the health of the relationship between South Korea and the United States.

“There is no wedge there… on a political level in Seoul, there is no wedge that can be driven between us by North Korea,” Mattis said.