South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed overtures from North Korea leader Kim Jong Un in a New Year’s Day address, threatening to further drive a wedge between South Korea and its ally the United States.
Kim’s address reiterated nuclear threats against the United States while advocating the reduction of military tensions in the Korean peninsula and suggesting that North Korea could send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Games to be held in South Korea in February. Moon indicated in November that he would welcome a North Korean delegation to the Olympics.
During a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Moon called on the Unification Ministry, which is responsible for inter-Korean relations, and the Ministry of Culture and Sports to work swiftly toward North Korean participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics. The South Korean Unification Minister said talks with North Korea could start as soon as January 9th. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the countries’ efforts to improve relations.
Relations between the U.S. and South Korea have been tense for months as the two countries sought to address increasing aggressions from North Korea. President Trump is against opening a dialogue with Kim without disarmament concessions. Moon, along with China and Russia, have advocated a lower bar for negotiations.