Korea's participation in PyeongChang Winter Olympics

People offer flowers to the bronze statues of their late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at Mansu Hill marking the sixth anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il's death in Pyongyang Sunday Dec. 17 2017

Korea's participation in PyeongChang Winter Olympics

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters on January 4 that the military drills were postponed to accommodate the Games, not as a condition of talks between Pyongyang and Seoul.

The last time the two Koreas engaged in official talks was in December 2015.

The first formal talks between North and South in more than two years are set to take place in a border town Tuesday as the rivals try to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics in the South and to improve their ties.

The regime largely remained silent on South Korea's proposal for dialogue, until North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he's willing to send North Korean athletes to Pyeongchang next month and suggested holding inter-Korean talks to arrange the proposed trip in his new year's message.

Kim has repeatedly affirmed the North's commitment to the mass production of nuclear missiles and warned of a nuclear strike if North Korea felt threatened.

Bennett cited a concession the US and South Korea are giving the North in postponing its usual "spring training" military exercises as a signal that Kim is using leverage he has to create havoc prior to or during the Winter Olympics.

Kim has claimed the drills are part of preparations to invade the North, therefore justifying his weapons programme, which is being conducted in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. But there are concerns that North Korea will make demands that are unacceptable for South Korea, like a permanent halt to U.S. The president said he had some role in it as he took a strong stand against the North Koreans.

Mitch Lerner
Mitch Lerner is director of the Institute for Korean Studies at The Ohio State University

"Without my rhetoric and tough stance", he said, "they wouldn't be talking".

South Korea's Unification Ministry said the North sent its consent for the talks to take place this morning - hours after United States and South Korea delayed their annual large-scale military exercises on the peninsula. In a speech on Monday, Kim said "the entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk".

The restart of talks follows tit-for-tat threats of nuclear war and the trading of personal insults between Kim and US President Donald Trump over Pyongyang's recent missile tests and ongoing nuclear program, which have prompted additional United Nations sanctions specifically targeting oil. North Korea also agreed that it was willing to address the overall inter-Korean relationship.

The two nations recently spoke through a diplomatic phone line, South Korea confirmed Wednesday.

But Haley insisted that Trump was reiterating his past position in his comments from Camp David over the weekend. "We have no intention of weakening our warning and surveillance".

President Trump has not commented specifically on the prospect North Korea's participation, but told Moon on Thursday that the U.S would send "a high-level delegation".

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