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South Korea offers talks with North ahead of Olympics

South Korea offered high-level talks with North Korea to discuss its possible participation in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games

2 January 2018, 9:40am
 

North Korea will take part in the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea after Kim Jong-un agreed to send a delegation to the games.

South Korea offered high-level talks with North Korea on 9 January, to discuss its possible participation in the 2018 games.

South Korea's president said he saw the offer as a "groundbreaking chance" to improve relations.

Kim Jong Un, in his annual New Year’s Day speech, called for reduced tensions on the Korean peninsula and flagged the North’s possible participation in the Games next month, just across the border in Pyeongchang.

The North Korean leader took many people by surprise when he said he was "open to dialogue" with his neighbours in his New Year's Day speech on Monday.

"The year 2018 is a significant year for both the North and the South, with the North marking the 70th anniversary of its birth and the South hosting the Winter Olympics,” he said.

There is speculation that Kim himself could travel to South Korea for the opening ceremony on 9 February.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in said the North's nuclear programme would be the backdrop of any sporting discussions.

"The improvement of relations between North and South Korea cannot go separately with resolving North Korea's nuclear programme, so the foreign ministry should co-ordinate closely with allies and the international community regarding this," said Moon.

The games will take place in PyeongChang in South Korea – less than 40 miles from the border with North Korea.

North Korea has participated in the Olympics before, but not in South Korea.

Only two North Korean athletes have so far qualified for the contest: ice skating duo Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik.

The president of the Pyeongchang Games' organising committee, Lee Hee-beom, had earlier told South Korea's news agency Yonhap that he was delighted to hear of the North's potential participation.

"It's like a New Year's gift," he said.

 

Kim Jong Un also addressed the United States 

Kim also used his address to reignite his war of words with Donald Trump. 

"The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk," he said.

He called on South Korea to postpone planned military training exercise with the US. The South’s president, Moon Jae-in, has previously suggested the manoeuvres could be halted in an attempt to ease tensions with North Korea and persuade it not to try to disrupt the PyeongChang games.

However, James Mattis, the US Defence Secretary, said there were no plans to cancel the drills.