Kim Jong Un offers rare olive branch to South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has held out a rare olive branch to the country's southern neighbor, offering talks o...

Posted: Jan 2, 2018 9:06 AM
Updated: Jan 2, 2018 9:06 AM

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has held out a rare olive branch to the country's southern neighbor, offering talks over sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month.

Kim struck an unusually conciliatory note in his annual New Year's Day address, declaring his wish "for peaceful resolution with our southern border."

South Korea welcomes Kim's proposal on Olympics

Kim warns that the nuclear button is always on his desk

He nevertheless couched the message in more familiar bellicose language, warning the United States that North Korea's nuclear ambitions were now complete and the launch button was "always on the desk in my office."

Kim's comments on South Korea surprised analysts, who described them as the most significant part of his speech.

Tensions with the South have been high as Kim has presided over a dramatic increase in the pace of North Korea's weapons program. In September, the regime carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

Call for peace

In his address, Kim called for peace on the Korean peninsula. "North and South must work together to alleviate the tensions and work together as a people of the same heritage to find peace and stability," Kim said, according to a CNN translation of his speech.

He added that North Korean representatives should start talks with their South Korean counterparts "as soon as possible" to discuss sending a delegation to the 2018 Winter Games.

Kim went on to wish South Korea success in hosting the upcoming Olympics and said the event would be a "good chance" to show the greatness of the Korean people.

But Kim ratcheted up his warnings to the US. "The entire mainland of the US is within the range of our nuclear weapons and the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office. They should accurately be aware that this is not a threat but a reality," Kim said.

"No matter how much America wants to attack us with their military might and nuclear power, they know that now we possess such great nuclear power and therefore they will not dare," he continued, adding that his country's greatest achievement of 2017 was the "historic accomplishment of completing our nuclear capabilities."

Softened tone

Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute, told CNN the softened tone toward South Korea was a surprise.

"The olive branch of trying to reach out to the South, that's the most significant change, because up until now, they just haven't shown any interest in engaging with the South, or anyone else for that matter," he said.

"But an olive branch is always wrapped in some sort of belligerent coating in North Korea, it doesn't mean the end of the nuclear program ... Even if they do reach out and send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, it wouldn't surprise me at all if they accompanied that with a continuing testing program as the spring comes, be that a submarine launch or satellite launch."

Tension has been rising between the United States and North Korea in recent months. Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that the United States is "closer to a nuclear war with North Korea" than ever.

In an interview on ABC's "This Week," Mullen warned that President Donald Trump's provocative rhetoric aimed at Kim Jong Un likely indicates he would prefer to take a more aggressive approach to countering the rogue regime's rapidly evolving nuclear weapons program.

Last week, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang's November 29 ballistic missile test, seeking to further strangle its energy supplies and tighten restrictions on smuggling and the use of North Korean workers overseas.

North Korea's state-run news agency KCNA released a report Saturday promising that the country would remain committed to its nuclear development in 2018.

"Do not expect any change in its policy," the report read.

"Its entity as an invincible power can neither be undermined nor be stamped out. The DPRK, as a responsible nuclear weapons state, will lead the trend of history to the only road of independence and justice, weathering all tempests on this planet," the report continued, referring to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Joint military exercises

In early December, the US carried out another round of military exercises with South Korea, involving the largest concentration of fifth-generation F-22s and F-35s fighter jets ever assembled in South Korea.

The war games included attacks against a mock North Korean missile launch site with mock North Korean radars.

In his New Year's address, Kim again denounced the exercises.

"These military exercises that you have with our enemy the USA must be halted at this very moment, because this behavior only causes fire and destruction on this great country," the North Korean leader said, apparently addressing South Korea.

Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing told CNN that Kim does "not want to appear threatening and provocative."

"He wants to convince the international community that his nuclear weapons are purely for self-defense and wants to have a negotiated solution with the United States on the basis that he gets to keep its nuclear deterrent capability, Zhao said.

"After achieving a preliminary strategic deterrent capability, North Korea might want to deescalate tensions and see(s) the Winter Olympics as a golden opportunity. The games make it possible for Washington and Seoul to meet Pyongyang's demand for self-restraint -- adjusting their military exercises -- without losing face and appearing weak on Pyongyang."

Terre Haute
Partly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 59°
Robinson
Partly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 59°
Indianapolis
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 62°
Rockville
Partly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 55°
Casey
Partly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 53°
Brazil
Partly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 59°
Marshall
Partly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 59°
Cloud cover returns this afternoon.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1675793

Reported Deaths: 27960
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook63468311202
DuPage1081271376
Will912621126
Lake800101085
Kane68370871
Winnebago41041560
Madison40087596
St. Clair36272596
McHenry34708329
Champaign26998197
Peoria26928368
Sangamon25754285
McLean23012218
Tazewell20647330
Rock Island18854361
Kankakee17910248
Kendall16203113
Macon15305250
LaSalle15030287
Vermilion14371199
Adams13156152
DeKalb12152133
Williamson12054174
Whiteside8297183
Jackson808694
Boone794383
Coles7888124
Ogle756887
Grundy738086
Franklin7330115
Knox7286169
Clinton7124102
Macoupin6951105
Marion6918143
Henry663777
Effingham660299
Jefferson6550143
Livingston597698
Stephenson584592
Woodford576892
Randolph5553100
Christian533682
Fulton526976
Monroe5246103
Morgan5076100
Logan495074
Montgomery491681
Lee478660
Bureau442691
Saline433869
Perry433275
Fayette430664
Iroquois421577
McDonough373761
Shelby347748
Jersey335653
Lawrence332533
Crawford332430
Douglas327337
Union306548
Wayne304063
White279833
Richland279557
Hancock274135
Cass266230
Clark265740
Pike264558
Clay258754
Edgar258049
Bond256925
Warren244066
Ford243959
Carroll236438
Moultrie234533
Johnson228131
Wabash217319
Jo Daviess216029
Massac215550
Mason214252
Washington212228
De Witt205530
Greene205340
Mercer204336
Piatt201614
Cumberland190026
Menard172213
Jasper161221
Marshall141321
Hamilton134022
Schuyler107710
Brown106510
Edwards104018
Pulaski103911
Stark81628
Gallatin7878
Alexander71912
Scott7136
Henderson70314
Calhoun6922
Hardin60116
Putnam5654
Pope5526
Unassigned1702433
Out of IL160

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 1003647

Reported Deaths: 16423
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1351072116
Lake661851159
Allen57674800
Hamilton46217464
St. Joseph44210611
Elkhart35807508
Vanderburgh32162480
Tippecanoe27859258
Johnson25007444
Hendricks23795357
Porter22856365
Madison18694408
Clark18505252
Vigo17393303
Monroe15218199
LaPorte15101250
Delaware15024261
Howard14681289
Kosciusko12260147
Hancock11682175
Bartholomew11548180
Warrick11270189
Floyd11059214
Wayne10946253
Grant10019219
Morgan9438176
Boone8891116
Dubois8249131
Dearborn819893
Henry8174152
Noble8003106
Marshall7891135
Cass7519121
Lawrence7433171
Shelby7171119
Jackson695889
Gibson6567115
Harrison646691
Huntington636899
Knox6360106
DeKalb628699
Montgomery6229109
Miami591498
Putnam577678
Clinton572171
Whitley563455
Steuben558976
Wabash5309103
Jasper527879
Jefferson509297
Ripley498686
Adams479775
Daviess4653114
Scott438473
Greene423596
Wells422588
Clay421360
White417364
Decatur4152102
Fayette405787
Jennings385961
Posey375844
Washington356150
LaGrange356078
Randolph343499
Spencer338743
Fountain333860
Sullivan327852
Starke315570
Owen313970
Fulton309167
Orange292663
Jay283445
Franklin265143
Perry264852
Rush260832
Carroll260633
Vermillion257254
Parke230426
Pike228443
Tipton227259
Blackford191841
Pulaski183157
Crawford159023
Newton156848
Benton150217
Brown145747
Martin138019
Switzerland134811
Warren120816
Union107016
Ohio84213
Unassigned0540