North Korea to reopen key cross-border communication system with South Korea

Nuclear football

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The communications channel between the two Koreas had been cut off for the past two years. In his New Year's speech, Kim extended a rare olive branch to the South, saying they should begin talks "as soon as possible" and "work together as a people of the same heritage to find peace and stability".

The economic prong of North Korea's strategy to open gaps between the United States and South Korea would be more subtle, but would introduce similar frictions between Washington and Seoul if South Korea pays too high an economic price for North Korean quiescence during the Olympics. He also alluded to Kim's comments Monday that he was willing to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics, which will be hosted by South Korea next month. North Korea then called again on Wednesday a few hours later proposing to "call it a day", according to a South Korean ministry official, quoted in the country's news agency Yonhap.

Analysts with the website 38 North, which tracks North Korea, reported Pyongyang may be preparing to test a rocket engine at a facility in Sohae, North Pyongan province, where all of the North's satellite launches have taken place since 2012.

In response to Kim's overture, South Korea on Tuesday offered high-level talks on January 9 at the shared border village of Panmunjom to discuss Olympic cooperation and how to improve overall ties.

Commercial satellite imagery from December 25 showed a rail-mounted environment shelter had been moved away from a test stand, indicating that an engine test may be in the near future, the website said, rather than a new rocket launch suspected in recent media reports.

But despite ratcheting up the tension, Trump doesn't really have a nuclear button. In this context, any diplomatic progress may come as a relief, but Kim's motives remain unclear.

South Korea's liberal President Moon Jae-in has supported Trump's pressure campaign against North Korea, but he's less confrontational than the USA president and favors dialogue to ease the North's nuclear threats.

US Department of State spokesman Heather Nauert also said that Kim "may be trying to drive a wedge of some sort between the two nations - between our nation and [South Korea]". He may think that if he improves relations with his neighbor, Seoul with push the USA toward détente. At the very least, pretending that it wants to negotiate a peaceful resolution may give the North time to ideal its missiles and become an official nuclear-weapons state. Kim may generate some tweets from President Trump as well as rising political debates within South Korea over Moon's standing and popularity, but Kim is unlikely to be able to lure Moon into fundamental missteps that would compromise the institutional strength of the U.S. -ROK alliance.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for "serious case of amnesia" after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don't want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE responded to Kim's assertion about Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal on Tuesday, assuring in a tweet that the arsenal commanded by the U.S.is "much bigger" and "more powerful".

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