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Kim Jong Un Message Draws Favorable South Korea Response

Jan. 1, 2018 (EIRNS)—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s message was quite conciliatory toward South Korea in tone, and has gotten a favorable response from the R.O.K. (South Korea).

Back on Dec. 16, Kim Hong-gul, son of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, had told Yonhap that he believed Kim Jong Un might "offer an olive branch of some kind" during the New Year message, which could lead to a peace initiative. Kim Hong-gul is now chairman of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC), a pro-unification non-governmental organization which has a sister organization in North Korea.

The New Year’s message confronts the United States:

"The United States should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table. The entire area of the U.S. mainland is within our nuclear strike range."

Kim also said,

"This year, we should focus on mass-producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment. These weapons will be used only if our security is threatened."

But the message, based on a Reuters translation, cited the necessity to lower tensions on the Peninsula and improve relations with the R.O.K.

"North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people, and we wish the Games will be a success. Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility."

The New York Times has a somewhat different translation, which adds,

"Above all, we must ease the acute military tensions between the North and the South. The North and the South should no longer do anything that would aggravate the situation, and must exert efforts to ease military tensions and create a peaceful environment."

Kim’s statement of intent to mass-produce nuclear weapons and missiles during 2018 and ready them for deployment, conflicts with his call to "no longer do anything..."—clearly referring in part to scheduled U.S.-R.O.K. military exercises. U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis, when asked by press Dec. 30 whether any consideration was being given to postponing upcoming U.S.-South Korea military exercises for the Olympics, simply said, "No."

In Seoul, the Moon Jae-in administration welcomed Kim’s opening.

"We have always stated our willingness to talk with North Korea any time and anywhere if that would help restore inter-Korean relations and lead to peace on the Korean peninsula,"

a spokesman for the presidential Blue House said. "We hope the two Koreas will sit down and find a solution to lower tensions and establish peace on the Korean peninsula." As for North Korean participation in the Olympics,

"The [organizing committee] will discuss relevant matters with the South Korean government as well as the International Olympic Committee,"

said Lee Hee-beom, president of the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee.