North Korea may participate in South Korea's Winter Olympics, says Kim

North Korea may participate in South Korea's Winter Olympics, says Kim

Pyongyang has shrugged off a raft of new sanctions and heightened rhetoric from the United States as it continued to drive forwards with a weapons programme that it says is defensive and aimed at developing a warhead capable of targeting the USA mainland.

North Korea, which regularly threatens to destroy the United States, South Korea and Japan, tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile in November, which it said was capable of delivering a warhead to anywhere in the United States.

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. "Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility".

"The [organizing committee] will discuss relevant matters with the South Korean government as well as the International Olympic Committee", Lee told the media."[But we] enthusiastically welcome it.

Moon's comments contrasted with those of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who said on Monday that Seoul should stop asking foreign countries for help in improving ties between the two Koreas.

North Korea did not immediately react.

John Delury, a professor of worldwide relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, said Kim's message to Seoul was "more promising" than he had anticipated, addressing in a specific and actionable way South Korea's desire to make the Games a success.

Moon said he had proposed the delayed South Korea-U.S. war games to Washington, which was reviewing his offer.

"To avoid a nuclear conflict and the full-scale deployment of an operational North Korean strategic deterrent force, USA leaders, in concert with South Korea, should redouble efforts to engage North Korea in direct talks and cease any further explicit or implicit threats of military action against the North", he said in an email.

"The upcoming Olympics provide an important opportunity to break the ice and to begin discussions with the North Koreans on mutual steps that reduce the chances of miscalculation and war", he added.

Revere said Kim's speech contained the strongest defense yet of North Korea's status as a permanently nuclear-armed country. "That's not a basis on which the United States is prepared to engage", he said.

Kim said that 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".

North Korea's state-run news agency KCNA released a report Saturday promising that the country would remain committed to its nuclear development in 2018.

This, Kim said, was "irreversible with any force", making it impossible for the United States to start a war against North Korea.

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.

"This shows the Moon administration is looking at the situation from a very realistic, rational point of view", said Jeong Yeung-tae, head of the Institute of North Korea Studies in Seoul.

While Kim is keen to declare his weapons programme a success, he is unlikely to completely end his contentious testing regime, said Scott LaFoy, a ballistic missile analyst at the website NK Pro, which monitors North Korea.

"The government has a willingness to have dialogue with the North regardless of timing, place and format", the minister said.

"After achieving a preliminary strategic deterrent capability, North Korea might want to deescalate tensions and see (s) the Winter Olympics as a golden opportunity".

"As we move into the spring, Pyongyang will once again test all different types of missiles and weapons", he said.

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