By AsiaToday reporter Heo Go-woon
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for improved ties with the South with the upcoming Winter Olympics Games to be held in South Korea in his New Year's address on Monday. Furthermore, he suggested a wide range of exchanges and contacts to ease military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to create a peaceful environment. Later in the day, Cheong Wa Dae welcomed Kim's message that he was willing to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. Whether the security crisis on the Korean Peninsula will be transformed with the opening of the Winter Olympics is being watched with keen interest. We need to keep an eye on the sincerity of Kim's offer for dialogue and willingness to improve inter-Korean relations, but it seems that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is about to change.
"The year 2018 is a significant year for both the two Koreas, with the North marking the 70th anniversary of its regime establishment and the South hosting the Winter Olympics," Kim said in his televised New Year's speech aired on the North Korea's Central Television. He said the Winter Olympics would "serve as a good occasion to showcase the national pride and I sincerely hope it will be a success." Regarding inter-Korean relations, Kim said, "We should improve the frozen North-South relations to successfully celebrate the national events and display the people's dignity and spirits both internally and externally in order to make this year historical."
"Most of all, we should ease the military tensions between the North and the South to create a peaceful environment on the Korean Peninsula. Both the North and the South should not do anything that intensifies the situation, but should make efforts," Kim said. "If we sincerely want national reconciliation and unity, we are open to dialogue and contact with anyone, including the South's ruling and opposition parties, various groups and individuals."
In contrast to his soft tone toward Seoul, he threatened U.S. with a "nuclear button" installed on his desk in his office, saying, "The U.S. should aware that the North's nuclear force is a reality, not a threat." He also said, "The U.S. could never launch a military attack on me."
As the North Korean leader seemingly changed his foreign policy to "going through South Korea and bypassing the U.S." from "going through the U.S. and bypassing South Korea" in his New Year's speech, the most important issue for the South Korean government will be balancing the resolution of nuclear issues with the United States and the international community. "We welcome Kim's offer to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Games and hold talks with the South to discuss possible participation," presidential spokesperson Park Soo-hyun said. "The successful hosting of the Olympics will contribute to maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia as well as the rest of the world. We will work closely with the international community to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue peacefully, and we hope that the two Koreas sit down and find a solution to the inter-Korean relations," Park said.