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  • Pope Francis reads a message for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics games.

    Pope Francis reads a message for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics games. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 February 2018

The Pope’s message is in line with the expectations of both the North and South Korean leaders.

Pope Francis said on Wednesday, during his weekly general audience in the Vatican that “the traditional Olympic truce acquires special importance this year,” and reiterated the Vatican’s willingness to support any “useful peace initiative that favors peace and encounter among peoples.”

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The Pope’s message is in line with the expectations of both the North and South Korean leaders, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, who have repeatedly argued joint participation in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games and the resulting talks would mark a “year of reconciliation” and “bring peace.”

During Kim Jong-un’s annual New Year speech, the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea called for the two countries to “melt the frozen north-south relations” highlighting the importance of acting together as a “nation” in this international event. South Korean officials welcomed the invitation.

Since then the two countries have held talks, reopened the border hotline, which had been closed since early 2016, agreed on marching together in the opening ceremony, and decided North and South Korean athletes would compete as a single team.

140 members of a North Korean arts troupe, are moving in Mukho port, in Gangwon-do province, South Korea, February 7, 2018. The troupes visit is timed to coincide with the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games that start 09 February. REUTERS/Song Kyeong-Seok/Pool
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However, not all world leaders have responded to these developments with hope for peace. United States president Donald Trump responded by taking credit for the talks, arguing U.S. militarism played a key role in the North’s willingness to begin talks and dialogue, while Japanese prime minister sounded war alarms warning against the North’s nuclear capabilities.

In this context, Pope Francis’ remarks and praise of the move as an action that “allows for hope for a world where conflicts can be resolved peacefully through dialogue and reciprocal respect” are most welcome. Especially given the U.S. reiterated threats of nuclear annihilation.

Last year, the Pope also suggested a third-party country, like Norway, should mediate between North Korea and Washington to prevent armed conflict.

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