SEOUL: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has met Olympics chief Thomas Bach in Pyongyang, thanking him for helping to bring about a “dramatic thawing” of tensions on the Korean peninsula, the country’s state media said Saturday (Mar 31).
Last month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea triggered a fast-moving rapprochement that will see Kim sit down with the South’s President Moon Jae-in in late April – with a US summit with President Donald Trump planned for May.
Bach arrived in the country on Thursday and his visit, which concluded Saturday, was the result of an invitation extended by Pyongyang in January.
The isolated, nuclear-armed regime rarely hosts foreign dignitaries but recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomacy, with Kim making his first foreign trip as leader to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and inviting him to visit Pyongyang.
Kim told Bach that the Olympics – which saw competitors from the two Koreas march together at the opening ceremony and field a joint women’s ice hockey team – “opened a new chapter of concord between the north and the south”, the official KCNA news agency said.
“He said that the once frozen north-south relations greeted a dramatic thawing season with the Olympics as a momentum and it was totally attributable to the efforts of the IOC which offered an opportunity and paved a path for it,” KCNA reported.
The two men held discussions about the development of sport in the North and attended a women’s football match.
North and South Korea plan to hold a summit on Apr 27.
Trump is then due to meet Kim before the end of May for talks on Pyongyang’s denuclearisation.
Bach has hailed the reconciliatory mood, saying previously that the Olympic spirit “brought two sides together” and the two neighbours sent a “powerful message of peace” to the world.