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South Korea proposes high-level talks with North

02 January 2018

But U.S. -based experts saw Kim's speech as a clear attempt to divide Seoul from its main ally, Washington, which has led an worldwide campaign to pressure North Korea through sanctions to give up weapons programs aimed at developing nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.

The New Year's address is an annual event in the North and is watched closely for indications of the direction and priorities Kim may adopt in the year ahead.

He said the North might also be using its potential Olympic participation as a chance to show its nuclear program is not meant to pose a threat to regional peace.

South Korea's presidential office welcomed Kim's olive branch, saying that Seoul is open to talks with the North "at any time, in any place and in any format". 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".

An official from the Pyeongtaek Regional Office of Oceans and Fisheries, who also requested anonymity, confirmed that the vessel had been disallowed from leaving the port since December 21.

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Several nations have questioned whether it is safe to send their athletes to the Games, which will be held in February at a mountain resort just 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the heavily fortified border.

"This shows the Moon administration is looking at the situation from a very realistic, rational point of view", said Jeong Yeung-tae, head of the Institute of North Korea Studies in Seoul.

Early Sunday retired U.S. Navy admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, said America and North Korea are closer to conflict "than we've ever been".

With tensions between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs showing no signs of ceasing, this statement is most likely to add fuel to the fire.

Expressing hope for a "peaceful resolution" to the longstanding cold war on the peninsula, Kim said the the two countries should "work together as a people of the same heritage to find peace and stability", and offered to begin talks with Seoul "as soon as possible" about sending a North Korean delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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Analysts said the North Korean leader's speech on Monday showed more confidence compared to previous years, his old habit of swaying from side to side while making speeches almost undetectable.

Besides those tests, North Korea also detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear device and fired more than a dozen rockets.

"Implicit in Kim Jong Un's speech is a willingness to engage with others, including the United States, on the basis of their acceptance of the "reality" of North Korea's permanent nuclear status".

But once they sit down, the North could put Seoul in a hard position by making unacceptable demands such as an end to the annual joint military drills with the United States, Koh added.

'The improvement of relations between North and South Korea can not go separately with resolving North Korea's nuclear programme, so the foreign ministry should coordinate closely with allies and the worldwide community regarding this, ' Moon said on Turesday.

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South Korea proposes high-level talks with North