Kim Jong-Un: The Nuclear Button Is Always On My Desk

Saul Bowman
January 2, 2018

This week's exchanges follow a year dominated by fiery threats form Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump who vowed to destroy North Korea if threatened, even as U.S. diplomats pushed for a diplomatic solution.

But Kim said in his New Year speech that nuclear powers will not be used unless the North is provoked.

Professor Kim Hyun-Wook at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy said the North was trying to use the Olympics to improve ties with the South despite tensions with the U.S. showing no signs of abating.

"North Korea's participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people, and we wish the Games will be a success", he said, according to a Reuters translation of the speech.

"The upcoming Olympics provide an important opportunity to break the ice and to begin discussions with the North Koreans on mutual steps that reduce the chances of miscalculation and war", he added.

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.

The South's state-run Institute for National Security Strategy, however, cautioned that a North Korean team is likely to come with strings attached, as the regime would see the move as a service that "helps" the South.

This, Kim said, was "irreversible with any force", making it impossible for the United States to start a war against North Korea.

South Korean Unification Minster Cho Myoung-gyon says the South proposes the two Koreas meet Jan. 9 at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss Olympic cooperation

However, if South Korea and the United States hold joint military drills after the Olympics are held, the North could launch another act of provocation, the institute said. "Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility", he said.

Seoul and POCOG have billed the Games, which open on February 9, as a "peace Olympics" and have been keen for the North to take part.

John Delury, a professor of worldwide relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, said Kim's message to Seoul was "more promising" than he had anticipated, addressing in a specific and actionable way South Korea's desire to make the Games a success.

"We look forward to candidly discussing interests from both sides face-to-face with North Korea along with the North's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics", Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon told reporters.

They could, however, still take part via an invitation from the International Olympic Committee.

"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".

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 are willing to talk with North Korea on the peaceful resolution of the North's nuclear program regardless of form, time and method", said Choi in a regular briefing.

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