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North Korea's Kim Signals Olympics Truce, Seeks Talks With Seoul

02 January 2018, 10:51 | Marta Robbins

North Korea's Kim Signals Olympics Truce, Seeks Talks With Seoul

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Kim Jong-Un urged North Korea to mass-produce nuclear warheads and missiles in a defiant New Year message on Monday suggesting he would continue to accelerate a rogue weapons programme that has stoked worldwide tensions.

Tension has been rising between the United States and North Korea in recent months. But if there are talks, they would be the first formal dialogue between the Koreas since December 2015. But he also struck a conciliatory tone in his New Year's address, wishing success for the Winter Olympics set to begin in the South in February and suggesting the North may send a delegation to participate.

"(The North) can cope with any kind of nuclear threats from the U.S. and has a strong nuclear deterrence that is able to prevent the United States from playing with fire", Kim said on Monday.

Chun Yung-woo, a former South Korean national security adviser, said Seoul should have taken more time before answering. Kim Jong-un, while acknowledging the "unprecedented" level of sanctions the country had endured in 2017, said that North Korea would have to improve its "ability to be self-reliant".

South Korea says it is inspecting a Panama-flagged oil tanker suspected of evading worldwide sanctions by trading with North Korea.

But he also hinted at diplomatic overtures to South Korea amid increasingly crippling sanctions.

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The minister said communication channels between the two Koreas in Panmunjom should be restored immediately to hold the inter-Korean, inter-governmental talks, suggesting to discuss details on the January 9 dialogue, such as setting agenda and forming delegations through the restored communication channels.

"It's reality, not a threat, that the nuclear button is always on my desk", Kim said. Last year, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and test-launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of its push to possess a nuclear missile capable of reaching anywhere in the United States.

It is possible officials from the two countries may meet in the near future to discuss the idea, he said, adding that he hoped the event was successful.

Kim called on North Korea to accelerate its production of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, CNN reported.

The U.S. State Department did not respond to a requests for comment on Kim's address, but analysts said it was an attempt to weaken the U.S.



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