South Korea offers to talk with North on Olympics cooperation

01_02_18_Kim_Jong_Un

South Korea offers to talk with North on Olympics cooperation

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year's speech on Monday he was "open to dialogue" with Seoul and for athletes from the North to possibly take part in the Winter Games. Analysts say Kim may be trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its ally Washington as a way to ease global isolation and sanctions against North Korea.

The remarks came one day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country was willing to send a delegation to the Winter Olympic Games to be held here on February 9-25.

Professor Kim Hyun-Wook at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy said the North was trying to use the Olympics to improve ties with the South despite tensions with the United States showing no signs of abating.

He said the Olympics would be "a good chance" to show the greatness of the Korean people, CNN reported.

"I hope the Unification Ministry and the Ministry of Culture and Sports will swiftly come up with follow-up measures to quickly restore South-North Korean dialogue and realize the North Korean delegation's participation in the PyeongChang Olympics", the president said in a Cabinet meeting held at his office Cheong Wa Dae.

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Choi suggested sending cruise ships to North Korea's Wonsan port to help the North minimize transportation costs and to use the ships as accommodation in South Korea, said the newspaper. "The United States can never start a war against me and our country". He also proposed last month that Seoul and Washington postpone annual joint military drills until after the Olympics, and he generally takes a less confrontational approach to relations with the North than his predecessor, Park Geun-hye. "Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility", Kim said.

"When it comes to North-South relations, we should lower the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula to create a peaceful environment", Kim said.

North Korea's past participation in sporting events in the South has largely depended on the political and military situation, though they did send a full team to the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, near Seoul.

This also corresponds with Moon's ambition for South Korea to take the driver's seat on the Korean Peninsula.

Rather than encouraging USA measures that "threaten the security and peace of the Korean peninsula", Seoul should instead respond to overtures from the North, and "stop nuclear war exercises with foreign forces", Kim said.

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Kim's hostile comments were offset by a diplomatic message.

North Korea tested intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September in defiance of global warnings and sanctions, raising fears of a new conflict on the Korean peninsula.

"We welcome it", a statement said.

It said the North is likely refrain from conducting a missile or nuclear test before it reaches a decision on whether to take part in the games. We are waiting for North Korea's reply.

Tension has been rising over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of years of U.N. Security Council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House.

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