North and South Korea have agreed to march under a single, unified flag at the Winter Olympics to be held next month in South Korea, it was announced today. It was also announced that they would field a joint women’s ice hockey team. The announcements were the results of negotiations that took place in the border village Panmunjom over the last several days, the first face-to-face meetings between the two countries in over two years.
North Korea is proposing to send a delegation to the Games that includes 23 cheerleaders, 140 musicians and 30 taekwondo athletes the games. The country has also agreed to send a 150-member delegation to the Paralympics in March, also in South Korea.
The announcements were greeted with some criticism. Thousands in the South have signed online petitions saying that the North’s participation in their hockey program could hurt their chances of medaling. They’ve urged South Korean President Moon Jae-in to abandon the plan.
Japan has viewed the recent breakthrough in negotiations with some suspicion, as well. Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the world should not be fooled by the North’s “charm offensive.” Kono added, “It is not the time to ease pressure or to reward North Korea. The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working,” Kono said.
That sentiment has been somewhat echoed in the U.S. as well, with former Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice saying recently, Kim Jong-Un has been “cleverer than originally thought.” Russian leader Vladimir Putin has also said that Kim has “won this round” of international diplomacy.
The Winter Games will take place from February 9 to February 25 in South Korea.