With false 'peace overture,' North Korea to blackmail the Olympics

With false 'peace overture,' North Korea to blackmail the Olympics
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Don’t get too excited over the latest so-called “peace overture” by Kim Jong Un, the portly pariah of Pyongyang, to South Korea. In fact, Kim’s offer, made while donning a rather poor-fitting western suit, is nothing more than an implicit threat to the very event his athletes wish to join: The 2018 Winter Olympics, just 60 miles across the Demilitarized Zone.

Kim’s goal is quite simple: Hold the games hostage.

But first, let’s recap the context of Kim’s poison-pill offer. In a New Year’s address, Kim declared his nation “has at last come to possess a powerful and reliable war deterrent” and that he now has a “nuclear button” on his desk that he could use at any time if attacked by the U.S.

However, and strangely enough, Kim also proposed talks with South Korea, stating that:

We will open our doors to anyone from south Korea, including the ruling party and opposition parties, organizations and individual personages of all backgrounds, for dialogue, contact and travel, if they sincerely wish national concord and unity.”

But this is where things get a little complicated. Kim gets into specific detail about an Olympics overture to the South, in what seems to be an overture to join the games:

“As for the Winter Olympic Games to be held soon in south Korea, it will serve as a good occasion for demonstrating our nation's prestige and we earnestly wish the Olympic Games a success. From this point of view we are willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures; with regard to this matter, the authorities of the north and the south may meet together soon.

“Since we are compatriots of the same blood as south Koreans, it is natural for us to share their pleasure over the auspicious event and help them.”

News outlets around the world jumped on the news, excitedly stating that Kim was offering to talk with the South, and that tensions on the Korean peninsula count finally begin to drop after what was a rough 2017.

But sadly, this is just one more game by the Kim regime to gain more concessions from the South — using the Olympics to gain whatever it can. North Korea is being economically smashed by now 10 different UN Security Council Resolutions. No doubt Kim’s regime is feeling that pain, now that 90 percent of its exports are barred by international law.

Large amount of energy imports have been cut off. While the war talk in Washington — thank God — has cooled to a degree, there is increasing chatter of a naval blockade among the pundit class here and on talk radio as well as on TV.

Kim’s ruse is simple to understand: He will demand some sort of economic assistance, sanctions relieve or a straight up bribe in food or oil help to secure his nation’s commitment to joining the games — and a peaceful games where no nukes or missiles are being tested or disrupted by some unforeseen event in the North.

Now, to be clear, Kim is not going to make a veiled threat upfront, oh no, that happens when South Korea bulks at the proposal, as any nation would when they are essentially being blackmailed. And considering the situation that South Korea is in, what will they do?

They can hang tough, and tell Kim and his thugs to go pound sand, only to see a wave of tourists cancel their plans and have the games be remembered along with other failed Olympics, when Kim decides to test his latest military menace during the opening ceremonies or launch a punishing cyberattack.

And of course, there is the Trump administration, which may or may not like the idea of such talks and does not seem to have taken a concrete position — at least not just yet. Trump on Twitter Tuesday said that talks “perhaps that is good news, perhaps not” signaling, well, as usual, nothing concrete. For her part, UN Ambassador Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyBiden sparks confusion, cleanup on Russia-Ukraine remarks The 10 Republicans most likely to run for president Will — or should — Kamala Harris become the Spiro Agnew of 2022? MORE, always one to have a hawkish soundbite ready to go, explained that the administration won’ttake any of the talk seriously if they don't do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea.”

For what it’s worth, my bet is South Korea offers Kim some small token of oil and food relief to ensure their billions of dollars in Olympic glory are guaranteed and to keep Kim talking. But don’t worry, with the hermit kingdom committed to testing more missiles and nuclear weapons — they must if they want to have a viable atomic arms program that can strike America — such talks won’t last long. But Kim already knows that.

Harry J. Kazianis (@grecianformula) is director of Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest, founded in 1994 by President Richard M. Nixon, as well as executive editor on its publishing arm, The National Interest. Kazianis previously served on the foreign policy team of the 2016 Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE presidential campaign. He has also held positions as Foreign Policy Communications Manager at the Heritage Foundation, editor-in-chief of The Diplomat as well as a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The views voiced in this article are his own.