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(LEAD) Moon urges support for N. Korea's participation in Olympics

2018/01/22 15:27

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(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks, additional information in last 5 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday urged public support for North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, calling it a rare chance to restart international talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

"Right now, we are facing a very precious opportunity to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula. It is entirely due to the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games that allowed the South and the North to sit face to face. Such dialogue came dramatically, while the possibility of war again loomed," the president said in a weekly meeting with his top secretaries held at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

"But the current condition is so fragile that no one can be optimistic about how long the dialogue will last," he added.

President Moon Jae-in (2nd from L) speaks in a weekly meeting with top presidential aides held at his office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 22, 2018. (Yonhap) President Moon Jae-in (2nd from L) speaks in a weekly meeting with top presidential aides held at his office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 22, 2018. (Yonhap)

The president insisted the North's participation in the Winter Olympic Games itself will help ensure the success of the quadrennial event, slated to be held from Feb. 9-25.

"However, if it ends just at that, we will have no way of knowing how difficult the problems we may face in our foreign and security relations in the future, and creating another opportunity for dialogue will not be easy," the president said. "We need wisdom and efforts to continue the miraculously earned opportunity for dialogue even after the end of PyeongChang (Olympics)."

   The remarks come amid growing public criticism over an agreement between the divided Koreas to form a unified women's hockey team for the upcoming event.

The South Korean public, as well as some hockey players, reacted with anger that the decision may take away the chance for many South Korean hockey players to play in the event that only comes around every four years.

Moon asked the people to support the decision in that it helped resume dialogue between the two Koreas, and that it may also help lead to a resumption of denuclearization talks.

"I ask the people to show their support in maintaining and expanding the dialogue as they will protect a candle in the wind, which we may not be able to create such an opportunity again," he said. "I also ask the political circle and the media to lend their support at least for the successful hosting of the PyeongChang Olympics."

   "We must work to make the South-North Korea dialogue lead to talks between the United States and North Korea. Only then can we peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, and peace and prosperity can continue on the Korean Peninsula," the president added.

He also emphasized the need for mutual concessions from both Koreas to keep the hard-won momentum for dialogue.

"I ask North Korea to also make efforts. There may be many difficulties in talks that come after a long disruption, but we will need efforts by both the South and the North to overcome such difficulties one by one," Moon said.

Seoul and Pyongyang resumed their dialogue earlier this month after more than a two-year hiatus.

A group of North Korean officials was currently on a two-day trip to South Korea to inspect possible venues for art performances by a North Korean art troupe during the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. The trip is scheduled to end later in the day. The North has agreed to send a 400-member strong delegation to the Winter Olympic Games.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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