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Seoul mayor wants end of military drills to push joint Korean Olympic bid

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Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon called Tuesday for the end of all military drills on the Korean Peninsula until the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to create a climate of peace in Northeast Asia and aid a joint bid by North and South Korea to host the 2032 Summer Games.

"I proposed [the cessation] because we need to create a peaceful atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia right now so that we can make concrete preparations for bidding to host the Olympics," Park told foreign correspondents at a briefing in downtown Seoul.

Park, a former human rights lawyer who has served as mayor since 2011, also called for the loosening of sanctions on North Korea to allow for humanitarian assistance and increased cultural and sports exchanges.

Relations between Pyongyang and Seoul have been at an impasse for most of the last year after a period of renewed detente that saw South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hold three inter-Korean summits in 2018.

At their final summit in Pyongyang in September 2018, the two sides agreed to compete together at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and to submit a bid to jointly host the Summer Games in 2032.

After a meeting between U.S. President Trump and Kim last February in Hanoi, Vietnam ended abruptly without an agreement, however, the relationship between the two Koreas cooled dramatically. Pyongyang has cut off official communications with Seoul and has regularly issued mocking and belligerent statements through its state media.

Park said the frozen relationship is endangering a major opportunity for the joint Olympic bid.

"We should strive to change the current stalled situation between the two [Koreas] in order to avoid this crucial golden time being wasted helplessly," he said. "It is urgent for us to start preparations for co-hosting Olympic events. We should stop all activities that generate military tensions and conflict."

Park said preparations for co-hosting the Olympics could restart the dormant peace process on a Korean Peninsula that saw several missile and rocket tests by North Korea over the latter half of 2018.

"We cannot just watch these escalating moves building up," Park said. "We need to make an opportunity, and I think the joint Olympics preparation will be the first starting point of making peace."

Moon has also called for increased engagement with North Korea from tourism to economic projects to sports exchanges in order to generate momentum for the stalled peace process.

"A joint hosting of the 2032 Summer Olympics will serve as a golden opportunity to show to the world that the two Koreas consist of one nation and to make a leap forward together," Moon said in a New Year's address earlier this month.

U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris sparked a controversy last week when he told international correspondents that increased inter-Korean engagement "should be done in consultation with the United States."

South Korea's Presidential Blue House rebuked Harris on Friday for making "inappropriate remarks" regarding inter-Korean cooperation.

Park recently returned from a tour of the United States, where he raised the idea of suspending military exercises in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. last week. He also attended the Consumer Electronics Show 2020 in Las Vegas, where he participated in a panel on smart city development.

Park said Tuesday that Seoul would host several peace-themed events this year, including a "Peace Week" in October.
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Seoul mayor wants end of military drills to push joint Korean Olympic bid Seoul mayor wants end of military drills to push joint Korean Olympic bid Reviewed by kogonuso on January 21, 2020 Rating: 5

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