South Korea seeks Winter Olympics cooperation with North to ease military tension

South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul South Korea Monday Jan. 1 2018. The letters read on top left

South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul South Korea Monday Jan. 1 2018. The letters read on top left"Kim Jong Un delivers New Year's speech. Kim said

In his annual New Year's address on Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned the United States that his country's completed nuclear arsenal is now a button-push away.

But Park did not refer to Kim's order to mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, as well as speeding up their deployment.

Kim also indicated an interest in sending a delegation to participate in the Winter Olympics, which its southern neighbor is scheduled to host in February, according to the report.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as part of his pursuit of engagement with the North, has called for North Korea's participation.

North Korea previous year 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.

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Kim also reportedly highlighted the isolated state's economic achievements during the speech, and nodded towards trying to improve the country's standard of living.

The United States has also pressured China and other nations to cut trade and diplomatic ties with North Korea, as part of global efforts to dry up Pyongyang's illegal cash flows that could fund its weapons programs.

Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute, told CNN the softened tone toward South Korea was a surprise.

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September in defiance of worldwide sanctions, raising fears of a new conflict on the Korean peninsula. Kim said he is willing to send a North Korean delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and added both Koreas "could urgently meet" to discuss the matter.

'The Winter Olympic games that will be held soon in the South will be a good opportunity to display the status of the Korean nation and we sincerely wish that the event will be held with good results, ' he said.

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Kim said that rather than encouraging US 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".

The implication, for now, is simple: Kim Jong-un's nuclear forces are operational and ready to deter the United States and retaliate to any first strike that would seek to either disarm Kim Jong-un of his weapons or kill him.

Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia until last April and now at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said there was an argument to be made to encourage North Korea's Olympic participation but that it should not be taken too far.

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

The war games included attacks against a mock North Korean missile launch site with mock North Korean radars. 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".

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A year ago was also notable for a war of words between Kim and Trump, who repeatedly threatened military action to stop the rogue state's nuclear program.

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