South Korea proposes talks with North after Kim Jong-Un’s peace offering
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.world Updated: Jan 02, 2018 11:19 IST
South Korea on Tuesday proposed holding high-level talks with Pyongyang on January 9, after the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un called for a breakthrough in relations and said Pyongyang might attend the Winter Olympics.
Kim used his annual New Year address to underscore Pyongyang’s claim that it has developed a weapons deterrent and warn that he had a “nuclear button” on hand, but sweetened his remarks by expressing an interest in dialogue and participating in the South’s Games.
South Korea’s unification minister Cho Myoung-Gyon said Seoul was “reiterating our willingness to hold talks with the North at any time and place in any form”.
“We hope that the South and North can sit face to face and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the Pyeongchang Games as well as other issues of mutual interest for the improvement of inter-Korean ties,” he said at a press conference.
Following a year dominated by fiery rhetoric and escalating tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme, the North Korean leader used his televised New Year’s Day speech to declare his country “a peace-loving and responsible nuclear power” and call for lower military tensions and improved ties with the South.
“When it comes to North-South relations, we should lower the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula to create a peaceful environment,” Kim said. “Both the North and the South should make efforts.”
But US-based experts saw Kim’s speech as a clear attempt to divide Seoul from its main ally, Washington, which has led an international campaign to pressure North Korea through sanctions to give up weapons programmes aimed at developing nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.
The two Koreas, which have been separated by a tense demilitarised zone since the end of the 1950-53 Korean war, last held high-level talks in 2015.