South Korea, US suspend military exercises until after Winter Olympics

This week the US and South Korea agreed to suspend military exercises off the Korean Peninsula until after the Winter Olympic Games.

Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump have exchanged fiery barbs in the a year ago and Trump has warned that the United States would have no choice but to "totally destroy" North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.

The long-stalled talks come after the North's leader Kim Jong Un indicated in his New Year's speech that Pyongyang was willing to send a delegation to the Winter Games in the South.

"(Kim) knows I'm not messing around... not even a little, not even one percent.

Measures under consideration include the two teams making a joint entrance at the opening ceremony and fielding unified teams in selected events.

In recent weeks, Trump and Kim have traded barbs about their arsenals and the "nuclear button" on their desks, raising fears the two countries could be drawing closer to war.

On Saturday, North Korea Olympic body member Chang Ung said the isolated state was "likely to participate" in the Pyeongchang Games from February 9-25, Kyodo news agency reported.

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The size and membership of the North Korean delegation and their accommodation - widely expected to be paid for by Seoul - will also be discussed.

While it is possible that the two Koreas will agree on the North's participation in the Olympics, they are likely to differ sharply over other issues relating to how to improve ties. But North Korea could demand some rewards in exchange for those steps, such as the revival of stalled cooperation projects that are lucrative for the North or the suspensions of annual U.S.

South Korea wants to discuss the resumption of family reunions but Pyongyang snubbed previous offers, saying it will not consider further reunions unless several of its citizens are returned by the South. But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has insisted the delay is a practical necessity to accommodate the Olympics, not a political gesture.

South Korea's delegation will be headed by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon.

"I would love to see them take it beyond the Olympics", he said.

"For North Korea to achieve its desired effects and to attract attention, it will have to dispatch its beauty cheering squad", said An Chan Il, a defector-turned-researcher who heads the World Institute for North Korea Studies.

The government of liberal President Moon Jae-in has expressed hope that the North's participation will ease tensions on the divided peninsula, which have flared up due to North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations.

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