(SEOUL, South Korea) — South Korea on Tuesday offered high-level talks with rival North Korea meant to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics set to begin in the South next month.
The offer came a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in his New Year’s address that he’s willing to send a delegation to the Olympics, though he also repeated nuclear threats against the United States. Analysts say Kim may be trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its ally Washington as a way to ease international isolation and sanctions against North Korea.
South Korean Unification Minster Cho Myoung-gyon says the South proposes the two Koreas meet Jan. 9 at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss Olympic cooperation and how to improve overall ties.
If the talks are realized, Cho said South Korea will first focus on Olympic cooperation but also try to discuss a restoration of strained ties between the Koreas.
In his closely watched address, Kim said that the United States should be aware that his country’s nuclear forces are now a reality, not a threat. He said he has a “nuclear button” on his office desk.
He called for improved ties and a relaxation of military tensions with South Korea, saying the Winter Olympics could showcase the status of the Korean nation.
The New Year’s address is an annual event in North Korea and is watched closely for indications of the direction and priorities Kim may adopt in the year ahead.
North Korea last year conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and test-launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of its push to possess a nuclear missile capable of reaching anywhere in the United States.