South Korea, US suspend military exercises until after Winter Olympics

09 January, 2018, 00:57 | Author: Kim Reid
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The decision to hold the bilateral meeting came after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, expressed in his New Year's message a desire for rapprochement with the South and to send a North Korean delegation to participate at the PyeongChang games, which led Seoul and Washington to postpone their annual joint military drill - seen by the North as a rehearsal for invasion - until after the Games.

South Korea said it will announce on Tuesday whether it will respect an agreement between the country's previous government and Japan that was aimed at resolving a feud over "comfort women" forced to work in Japan's wartime brothels.

On Monday, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said the Japanese and South Korean delegates to the six-party talks on denuclearizing North Korea agreed to step up diplomatic efforts to tap the "peace momentum" on the Korean Peninsula to resolve their nuclear tensions with Pyongyang.

This is an apparent reference to increased criticism by the conservative South Korean opposition, which argues that financing the North's athletes in PyeongChang could violate global sanctions imposed on the Kim Jong-un regime for its weapons programme.

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"North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" The two Koreas have had little interaction in sporting events after inter-Korean relations deteriorated in 2008.

South Korea is also expected to ask the International Olympic Committee to allow North Korea to attend the games. "It's very important that we don't ever let [Kim] get so arrogant that he doesn't realize the reality of what would happen if he started a nuclear war", Haley told host George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

"Look, right now they're talking Olympics".

The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, initially responded coolly to the idea of inter-Korean meetings. Chun Hae-sung is regarded as an expert at negotiating with North Korea, a policy expert who has occupied key positions in the Unification Ministry.

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While it is possible that the two Koreas will agree on the North's participation in the Olympics, they are likely to differ sharply over other issues relating to how to improve ties.

Asked if North Korea's denuclearization issue could be discussed, the spokesman said, "The two Koreas plan to discuss Olympic cooperation and issues of mutual concern".

In spite of the back and forth between the leaders, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that the decision to suspend military exercises was reached for non-political reasons. (,.) The North's delegation will be led by Ri Son-gwon, the chair of the North's state agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs, who will be greeted by a five-member delegation from South Korea led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon.

An agreement by South Korea to revive a jointly run industrial park or a tourism project could also draw criticism from overseas that it violates United Nations sanctions because they would result in South Korean money being sent to North Korea, critics say.

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