North And South Korea Will Have First Formal Talks In Over 2 Years

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> Trump applauds himself for renewed talks between North and South Korea springtime military drills with South Korea will be held from March 8 to 18 following the Feb. 9-25 Olympic Games. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis insisted the delay was a practical necessity to accommodate the Olympics, not a political gesture.

The White House said Trump approved the postponement in consultation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said he suggested the drills’ delay to the United States.

Moon, a liberal, has been pushing to improve strained ties and restore stalled cooperation projects with North Korea since his inauguration in May, though he joined US-led international efforts to apply more pressure and sanctions on the North.

Moon’s government wants North Korea to take part in the Winter Olympics. But North Korea is not strong in winter sports and none of its athletes have been qualified to compete in the Games. It needs to acquire additional quotas by the International Olympic Committee to come to South Korea. Baik said North Korea is expected to hold talks with IOC officials next week.

The Trump administration has said all options are on the table to end the North Korean nuclear standoff, including military measures, but Moon has repeatedly said there cannot be another war on the Korean Peninsula. Critics say these differences may have led Kim to think he can drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington as a way to weaken international pressure on the country.

The United States stations about 30,000 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. North Korea has cited the US military presence and its regular drills with South Korea as proof of American hostility that compels it to pursue nuclear weapons.

Last year, North Korea carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and test-launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of its push to possess functioning nuclear missiles capable of striking the US mainland. The repeated weapons tests earned the North toughened UN sanctions, and Kim and Trump exchanged threats of nuclear war and crude personal insults.

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