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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 2)

All News 06:52 January 02, 2018

Peace overture
Kim Jong-un should put words into action

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year speech has raised hopes for improvements in frayed inter-Korean ties as he expressed his willingness to send a delegation to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

Kim said in his televised speech Monday, "The Winter Games to be held in South Korea will be a good occasion for the country. We sincerely hope the Winter Olympics will be a success." Then he said the North is ready to take various steps, including the dispatch of a delegation, adding, "To this end, the two Koreas can immediately meet."

His speech came as a surprise given the North continued its military provocations throughout last year, raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula to a point where no one can rule out the possibility of imminent war. It marked the first expression of Pyongyang's intention to attend the Winter Olympics slated for February.

We hope his words are sincere and well-intended to bring reconciliation, peace and coexistence to the peninsula. And we urge Kim to put his words into action so he can prove his regime will change course and return to dialogue to resolve the nuclear crisis. Most of all, Pyongyang should show its willingness to take the path toward denuclearization.

Kim must realize his speech could only be rhetoric if he does not abandon his nuclear ambitions. He said the U.S. should be aware his country's nuclear forces are now a reality, not a threat. Kim even warned he has a "nuclear button" on his desk ready for use if his country is threatened. He disclosed a plan to mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment.

While welcoming his conciliatory message toward the South, we have to call into question what Kim is really up to. It may appear Kim is trying to weaken the South Korea-U.S. alliance. It would be anachronistic if North Korea attempts to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington by taking advantage of the international sporting event.

The North may be more interested in the deferment of Seoul's annual joint military exercises with Washington which will coincide with the Winter Olympics. Last month President Moon Jae-in proposed to the U.S. side delaying the drills until after the Games in order to encourage the North's participation and ensure what Seoul and organizers describe as a "peace Olympics."

The only way to dispel such doubts is for Kim to make good on what he spelled out for the Olympics and inter-Korean talks in his address. We all want to see North Korean athletes compete in PyeongChang, contributing to thawing the icy South-North ties, ending the Cold War and making peace not only in East Asia but across the world.

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