by Yoo Seungki
SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- The 23rd Winter Olympics ended successfully with the participation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), but challenges were left for South Korean President Moon Jae-in who was seeking to build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula through the dialogue mood created by the Olympics.
The high-ranking DPRK delegation, led by Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, returned home Tuesday via land route, wrapping up a three-day visit to South Korea.
The visit by Kim, who also serves as director of the United Front Department in charge of inter-Korean affairs, boosted hope for improved inter-Korean relations and the denuclearized Korean Peninsula as he expressed DPRK's willingness to talk directly with the United States.
Kim made the remarks during a meeting in PyeongChang, where he attended the Olympic closing ceremony, with President Moon Sunday, conveying the message of top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to the South Korean president.
The DPRK leader sent his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, to the Winter Olympic opening ceremony earlier this month, delivering his letter to Moon inviting the South Korean president to visit Pyongyang.
In response, Moon asked the DPRK side to actively engage in a dialogue with the United States, hinting that if relations between Pyongyang and Washington make progress, the proposed inter-Korean summit between Moon and Kim could be possible.
The DPRK leader positively responded to Moon's call as the chief DPRK delegate to the Winter Olympic closing ceremony said Monday that "doors are open" for talks with the United States. It indicated the top DPRK leader's intention to start talks with the U.S. side, possibly about the denuclearization.
Moon faced a challenge of persuading U.S. President Donald Trump to have a direct dialogue with the DPRK as the Trump administration imposed the heaviest-ever sanctions on Pyongyang just a day before the arrival of the high-ranking DPRK delegation in South Korea on Sunday.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Kim Yo Jong were seated just a few meters away during the Olympic opening ceremony, but they avoided each other, quashing expectations for a historic moment between the U.S. No.2 official and a senior member of the DPRK's ruling party.
Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Trump who serves as a White House advisor, also took her seat just a few meters away from the chief DPRK delegate during the closing ceremony, but they did not talk.
The U.S. government set a precondition for any possible talks with the DPRK, demanding Pyongyang's commitment to denuclearization first. The DPRK side had yet to attach any condition to talks with the United States.
Another challenge facing President Moon is the scheduled joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, which Moon and Trump agreed to delay during the Olympic and Paralympic period.
If Moon fails to persuade Trump to suspend, or at least scale down, the joint war games, which the DPRK denounces as a rehearsal for northward invasion, the dialogue mood on the Korean Peninsula could be disrupted.
The Paralympics is slated for March 9-18 in PyeongChang. South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo told a parliamentary defense committee last week that schedules for the South Korea-U.S. war games would be announced by the end of March after the Paralympics.