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Korean Leaders Assert Peace at Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony

Pyongyang (TeleSUR– The reconciliation process between the Koreas was symbolized during the Winter Olympics closing ceremony, despite increasing sanctions by the U.S.

The closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics Games in Pyeongchang boosted the reconciliation process in the Korean peninsula through a portrayal of their traditional arts, despite continuing attacks and hostility from the United States.

PyeongChang Olympics closing ceremony
DPRK Olympic Delegation’s Departure
Image: Rodong Sinmun

The closing ceremony was attended by Kim Yong-Chol, the vice-chairman of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, who in a display of continuing peace efforts shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in as they watched the event.

Athletes from both Koreas marched together Sunday at the closing event in a gesture asserting the historical effort for reconciliation between North Korea and South Korea as the central theme at the Winter Olympics. Athletes also marched together at the opening ceremony where the sister of the North Korean leader and Moon shook hands, kicking off the peace efforts.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach paid tribute to the athletes, saying they were an example to the world. “You have shown how sport brings people together in our fragile world,” he said.

During his speech, Bach invited several athletes to join him on stage, including South Korea’s gold medallist skeleton rider Yun Sung-bin, North Korean figure skater Ryom Tae Ok, American skier Lindsey Vonn and Tongan flag carrier Pita Taufatofua.

Despite this rapprochement, the United States is still rejecting any meeting with North Korean officials, imposing sanctions and continuing its hostile rhetoric.

Related: US Media Turn to ‘Superhero’ Pence to Combat Korean Olympic Peace Threat

Also, local critics of the rapprochement protested against Kim’s visit, arguing that he’s responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan in 2010, a South Korean navy ship in which 46 sailors died.

Kim was the chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau at the time, the military intelligence agency South Korea blames for the sinking, but North Korea denies their involvement with the incident.

However, senior officials from the South Korean government have supported Kim’s visit as an effort to “ease tensions.” Baik Tae-Hyun, South Korea’s Unification Minister spokesperson said that “due to difficult circumstances,” they decided to “focus on finding the route to peace in the Korean peninsula and improving the inter-Korean dialogue.”

“We hope that the public will understand [Kim’s visit] as being focused on the future and the bigger picture.”

The North Korean delegation told the South’s President Moon they were willing to meet with U.S. representatives and that developments between the Koreas should go “hand in hand” with those between North Korea and the United States.

But the United States has other plans and continues with their own aggressive agenda.

Related: PyeongChang Olympics Show Benefits of Diplomacy Without the US

Just Friday, the United States approved the “heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before,” against North Korea, according to President Donald Trump. The new sanctions bar U.S. citizens from dealing with 27 sea companies, 28 ships, and one person, located in North Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The U.S. expects this measure will prevent North Korea from further developing its nuclear program and shipping regular goods through international waters.

The North Korean government condemned the sanctions and called them an “act of war,” despite their efforts and initiatives for cooperation portrayed during the Olympics.

“But the U.S. brought the threat of war to the Korean Peninsula with large-scale new sanctions on the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] ahead of the Olympics closing ceremony,” said an official government statement.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of U.S. President Trump and senior White House adviser, also attended the ceremony and was seen sitting close to Kim and Moon, but it’s highly unlikely she will meet or talk with the North Korean delegation.

This post was originally written for and published by TeleSUR English.