Clouds lift as North Korea boosts Pyeongchang Olympics

Reuters

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump have a "very good relationship", the U.S. president suggested last night, in remarks that appeared to signal a new openness to diplomacy with North Korea.

North Korean residents are terrified that leader Kim Jong Un's recent call to eliminate remaining "non-socialist" elements in society will mean a return to the bloody executions and fearful politics of the past when nonconformists were weeded out and brutally neutralized, sources inside the country said. "I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised".

"I think that this is possible in the long run no matter how hard it may seem", he went on, focusing on the settlement of the Korean peninsula's nuclear problem. "I'm a very flexible person". This decision may have been the key element in the North's agreement to meet with the South. But its chief negotiator was also brutally clear - such weapons existed in the North Korean arsenal to be aimed at the United States, not South Korean "brethren".

North Korea asked the South on Thursday to abandon its military manoeuvers with the U.S., saying that these exercises are fuelling tension on the Korean Peninsula and increasing the risk of war. It announced it had postponed its joint military exercises with the USA, an annual event that North Korea believes encroaches on their sovereignty, earlier this month.

North Korea has maintained an uncompromising stance against the USA administration of President Donald Trump, while showing willingness to improve ties with the South.

Fast-thawing relations between North and South Korea have renewed enthusiasm for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, but North Korea may be using the momentum to request other concessions from Seoul.


However, President Trump appears to have won the war of words, after North and South Korea held rare formal talks Wednesday.

One senior Trump official told the Times that the past year had been a "humbling lesson" in the limits of American surveillance against a closed-off North Korea whose leader has placed nuclear weapons proliferation on the same level as economic development. The North said this was not on the table. He is prepared to take military action against the North to stop the North in its tracks and this threat petrifies the South Korean leadership.

In part, some analysts suspect South Korea's enthusiasm for diplomacy now is in part to avoid embarrassment or incidents during the Winter Olympics, which they fear might otherwise be disrupted by North Korean terrorism or cyber attacks.

The source could not say how likely they were to happen. Sanctions are effective only to the extent that they are enforced, and this kind of coordinated global action requires real diplomatic acumen - something the Trump administration has yet to demonstrate.

Following the first inter-Korean talks last week in more than two years, the two sides had agreed to hold talks on January 20, hosted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"We made various proposals including the fielding of a joint women's ice hockey team and a joint march into the Olympic stadium", South Korea's vice-sports minister Roh Tae-Kang said, according to Yonhap news agency.

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