Unlikely allies will form a united front at the Winter Olympics.
North and South Korea agreed on Wednesday to have their athletes march together under one flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics next month and to field a joint women’s ice hockey team, the most dramatic gesture of reconciliation between the two nations in a decade or more.
The agreements still require approval from the International Olympic Committee, but they are the most prominent steps toward rapprochement achieved by the Koreas since they began exploring cooperation during the Olympics following a year of heightened tension over the North’s nuclear weapons program.
South Korea’s athletes have previously marched alongside their North Korean counterparts at several Olympics, including the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics in Sydney and Athens, respectively, as well as the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
The current reconciliation mood began after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year’s speech that he was willing to send a delegation to the Games. Critics have said Kim’s overture is an attempt to use improved ties with South Korea to weaken U.S.-led international sanctions on North Korea, while buying time to perfect his nuclear weapons program.
The moves, nevertheless, have provided a temporary thaw in the Koreas’ long-strained ties and fostered optimism that North Korea won’t launch any new provocations, at least during the Olympics.