South Korea holds Panama oil tanker suspected of North Korea trade


The South Korean presidential office has welcomed the North's leader Kim Jong Un's offer to hold talks on sending a delegation to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

"The change from the (Kim's) previous dark Maoist suits to a softer toned grey Western-style suit likely aimed to underpin peace which Kim stressed in his address, and reflected a relaxed state of mind that probably came with the completion of the North's nuclear power", the Institute said.

The PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games were scheduled to be held in February in South Korea's namesake county of PyeongChang in the eastern Gangwon province. "He's developing nukes while trying to weaken global pressure and the South Korea-U.S. military alliance and get worldwide sanctions lifted", said Shin Beomchul of the Seoul-based Korea National Diplomatic Academy.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has repeatedly expressed his hope that the North will participate in the Winter Games.

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, with their son Barron, arrive for a New Year's Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 31, 2017.

The New York Times also reported that Kim's words are merely aimed at alleviating worldwide sanctions and brewing discord between South Korea and the U.S. South Korea and the U.S. share one goal of denuclearizing Pyongyang, . but have different ideas on how to achieve it. President Moon Jae-in wants talks and negotiations, . while U.S. President Donald Trump continues to emphasize sanctions and pressure.

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Analysts say Kim may be trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its ally Washington as a way to ease worldwide isolation and sanctions against North Korea.

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - South Korean authorities have seized a Panama-flagged oil tanker suspected of evading global sanctions by trading with North Korea, officials said Sunday. Kim added the goal for 2018 is to "mass produce and deploy nuclear warheads and missiles".

The Koreas, divided by the demilitarised zone since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, last held high-level talks in 2015 in an effort to ease border tensions. "The South's dilemma is whether we can accept that", Koh said.

Talks could provide a temporary thaw in strained inter-Korean ties, but conservative critics worry that they may only earn the North time to flawless its nuclear weapons.

Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia until last April and now at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said there was an argument to be made to encourage North Korea's Olympic participation but that it should not be taken too far.

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