A North Korean choir sings while North Korea's Kim Jo-Yong and other officials look on. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/ED JONES
A North Korean choir sings while North Korea's Kim Jo-Yong and other officials look on. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/ED JONES

The headline on the article read: "North Korea heads for diplomatic gold medal at Olympics: analysts".

The article below discussed one of the most unexpected momentum shifts in global diplomacy — the thawing of the relationship between North and South Korea.

Until late last year, all the talk among the "analysts" was of a looming nuclear conflagration on the peninsula as the US flew bombers overhead and moved naval battle groups towards the region.

US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un even had a Twitter argument over whose nuclear button was bigger. Yes, that actually happened.

Then, out of the blue, South Korea met with North Korea and offered the pariah state a place at the Winter Olympics in teams sharing players from both countries.

But the real diplomatic shift occurred this week when Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong visited South Korea and had the world eating out of her hand.

Relaxed, smiling and happy, she charmed the media.

The Washington Post gushed: "The ‘Ivanka Trump of North Korea’ captivates people in the South at the Olympics"; CNN said she was "stealing the show"; and The New York Times said: "Kim Jong-un’s sister turns on the charm, taking Pence’s spotlight".

Trump’s deputy Mike Pence was in town to drum up support for the isolation of the evil North. There he was, in his red, white and blue tracksuit at the opening ceremony, while the world focused on Kim Yo-jong in the row behind him.

The New York Times took stock: "Flashing a sphinx-like smile and without ever speaking in public, Ms Kim managed to outflank Trump’s envoy to the Olympics ... in the game of diplomatic image-making."

While Pence was beating the war drum, she delivered a message of reconciliation and an unexpected invitation to the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, to visit Pyongyang.

Pence was all over the place. He avoided an official dinner with the South Koreans so he didn’t have to spend time with the North Koreans. He did not stand when the joint Korean team entered the stadium.

So diplomatic gold to North Korea. Silver to the South. And the US? Not even bronze.

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