North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year's speech on Monday he was "open to dialogue" with Seoul and for athletes from the North to possibly take part in the Winter Games.
Dressed in a Western-style gray suit and tie, Kim said North Korea had been successful in "completing" its nuclear arsenal, complete with a nuclear button on his desk.
North Korea tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in November 2017, which it said was capable of delivering a warhead to anywhere in the United States. North Korea's adoption of a proactive attitude on participating in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and a stern stance toward the U.S. must be seen as a desire to use inter-Korean dialogue as a key to open the door to dialogue with the hardline Trump administration.
The offer for high-level talks next Tuesday had been discussed with the United States, the South's unification minister said, while a decision on whether to push back a massive joint military drill between South Korea and the United States until after the Winter Olympics was pending.
North Korea could send a delegation to the South for the 2018 Winter Olympics, in the first indication Pyongyang may participate in next month's Games despite tensions over its nuclear weapons programme.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Kim's claims about his country's nuclear capability underscored that there was no viable "military solution" to denuclearizing North Korea and that sanctions alone would not persuade Pyongyang to halt or reverse its nuclear buildup.
This, Kim said, was "irreversible with any force", making it impossible for the United States to start a war against North Korea.
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In the speech, Kim also stressed North Korea's economic achievements and noted the importance of improving the nation's standard of living, the AP reported. "Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility", he said.
But North Korea has so far snubbed his overtures, including an offer to hold inter-Korean military talks about ceasing hostile activities along the border, as it tested missiles at an unprecedented pace.
He said the U.S.
"An improvement in inter-Korean relations may not go a separate way from (efforts) to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, so I ask the foreign ministry to closely consult with our allies and the global community so that we may push for an improvement in inter-Korean relationship and the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue at the same time", he said.
Chun Yung-woo, a former South Korean national security adviser, said Seoul should have taken more time before answering.
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", Kim said.
North Korea tested intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September in defiance of worldwide warnings and sanctions, raising fears of a new conflict on the Korean peninsula. We welcome the fact that North Korea strongly hinted at its willingness to improve inter-Korean relations in the New Year. However, he also steadfastly declared North Korea a nuclear power.