South Korea urges North Korea to talk before military drills restart

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Seoul | Published: January 26, 2018 4:07:15 PM

The Winter Olympics will offer only a brief respite from tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the South's unification minister warned today, urging Pyongyang to seize the opportunity to talk to Washington.

South Korea, North Korea, military drills,  Washington, seoul, North Korean missile launches, seoul, Pyongyang, US, Donald Trump, Winter Olympics, Key Resolve drills A return to the “vicious cycle” of the last two years, with North Korean missile launches or atomic blasts leading to new international sanctions, followed by new tests, was a “realistic guess”, he told a forum in Seoul. (Reuters)

The Winter Olympics will offer only a brief respite from tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the South’s unification minister warned today, urging Pyongyang to seize the opportunity to talk to Washington. Seoul and the US have only agreed to put off major joint military exercises until after the end of the Paralympics on March 25, pointed out Cho Myoung-Gyon, who is in charge of the South’s relations with its neighbour. The Foal Eagle and Key Resolve drills always infuriate Pyongyang, which condemns them as rehearsals for invasion and often responds with its own provocations. “When the military exercises start, North Korea is likely to react angrily and will probably launch provocative acts, prompting a new layer of sanctions,” Cho said. A return to the “vicious cycle” of the last two years, with North Korean missile launches or atomic blasts leading to new international sanctions, followed by new tests, was a “realistic guess”, he told a forum in Seoul.

Pyongyang has agreed to send athletes and support delegations to the South for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month and form a unified women’s ice hockey team with the South, after months of entreaties from Seoul to take part in a “peace Olympics”, prompting a rare and rapid improvement in the atmosphere on the peninsula. But the North was also preparing a massive military parade in Pyongyang on February 8, a day before the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony, Cho said.

“This is going to be a considerably threatening show of force, involving a large number of troops and many weapons.” Instead Seoul has urged Pyongyang to open a dialogue with Washington, he said. The North has long said it is open to talks without preconditions, but the US says it must first take concrete steps towards denuclearisation, although the administration of President Donald Trump has at times sent mixed and conflicting messages on the issue. “We need to make the momentum lead into April and extend after June,” the minister added.

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