ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-North Korea activists stage a demonstration in Seoul on January 9, 2018 after North Korea said it was willing to send athletes and a high-level delegation to the forthcoming Winter Olympics.
Historically, sports diplomacy tends to produce temporary gains “so, we might see a short-term improvement in conditions on the Korean peninsula, but then a falling-back into the longer-term pattern of hostilities and tensions,” explained Andray Abrahamian, executive director of Choson Exchange, a non-profit focused on North Korea, and researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The Olympics could improve relations between Seoul, Washington and Pyongyang but it will be tough since there are multiple parties involved, he continued. Previous incidents of sports diplomacy have mostly involved just two players, such as India and Pakistan’s cricket interactions or ping-pong games between China and the U.S.
In the past, North Korea’s presence at international sporting events, such as the Asian Games or soccer matches, has failed to defuse nuclear pressures. And the regime’s sudden interest in the Winter Olympics could simply be a geopolitical maneuver to win concessions from Seoul, according to some critics.
Unless Pyongyang or Washington changes its tone, “security issues won’t be resolved by any short-term reduction in tensions that surrounds the Olympics,” said Chad O’Carroll, CEO and founder of research firm Korea Risk Group.