North Korea Games the Olympics

Photo taken by Korea Central News Agency on April 15, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waving during a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, the country's late founder and grandfather of Kim Jong Un. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

If the International Olympic Committee ever decides to add Totalitarian Cruelty and Nuclear Extortion to its roster of Olympic sports, it might make sense for the IOC to bend over backwards to include North Korea -- which would be a shoo-in for the gold. But the Olympics are supposed to involve healthier forms of activity. So I'd strongly urge a sober rethink of the applause we're now hearing for North Korea's last-minute enrollment in the Winter Olympic Games, to be held Feb. 9-25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

And there sure has been plenty of applause, from many quarters, for Tuesday's Inter-Korean talks at Panmunjom and the resulting joint North-South Korean announcement that North Korea would send a delegation to the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee hailed this development as "a great step forward in the Olympic spirit." United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the decision in hopes that it will help "foster an atmosphere of peace, tolerance and understanding among nations...particularly relevant on the Korean peninsula and beyond." President Trump, who made a stellar case last November for trusting nothing that North Korea's totalitarian regime says or does, took credit in a Tweet for being "strong" enough with North Korea to bring them to the table with the South, for the talks that led to these plans for Olympic commingling. Assorted major news outlets have been enthusing about the easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula, and the vision of North and South Korean athletes marching together in the opening parade  -- presumably en route via the Olympic ice-skating rink to some lustrous future in which North and South can reconcile without Pyongyang surrendering its totalitarian ideology or Seoul sacrificing its democratic freedoms.

At a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, "The North Korean participation is an opportunity for the regime to see the value of ending its international isolation by denuclearizing."

Sorry, but this is wishful thinking, translated into diplomatic nonsense. We've heard it too many times before. If North Korea's Kim regime is likely to draw any conclusion from this warm welcome to the Winter Games, it is that Kim's threats, gross abuses of human rights and illicit nuclear missile ventures are no serious bar to rejoining the "international community." Hey, that last hydrogen bomb test was way back in September 2017, a whole four months ago. Now it's 2018. Welcome to the Olympics!

Consider how we got to this moment. For decades, following the 1950-53 Korean War that began with North Korea's invasion of South Korea, the North has held the South hostage to its guns, threatening a renewed hot war, "seas of fire" and so forth; threats buttressed by a growing arsenal of devastating weapons, and periodic attacks, such as North Korea's 2010 sinking of a South Korean frigate.