North, South Korea agree to their first talks in two years

Kim had signaled in his New Year's address that he is considering sending athletes to his southern neighbor's festivities in Pyeongchang, setting off a move towards diplomacy after months of missiles launches and angry messages.

Mr Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un have been trading barbs throughout the US President's first year in office; Mr Trump called Mr Kim "Rocket Man" multiple times and the North Korean state news agency had called the US leader a "dotard".

However, another diplomatic lever that allowed the trickle of hope for peace to flow forward was a delay in U.S. The Games are to be held in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang.

The drills, relatively common between the two countries' armed forces, have repeatedly angered North Korea, which seems them as an act of aggression.

North Korea accepted a proposal to hold talks with South Korea on Tuesday, reducing tensions as President Moon Jae-in's government prepared to host the Winter Olympics next month.

The overture about talks came after Trump and Kim traded more bellicose claims about their nuclear weapons.

He told reporters Friday that Japan would "take all steps necessary", including cooperating with China and Russian Federation, to step up pressure on North Korea so it will give up its nuclear weapons and missile development policies. USA officials had understood the South Korean military would be heavily committed to providing logistical support for the Games. "Those talks are clearly the result of the amount of global pressure (on North Korea), and they are a way for North Korea to start talking while keeping it contained to a benign issue".

FILE PHOTO: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a New Year's Day speech in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on January 1, 2018.

What the neighbors had to say to each other may disappoint those who looked at this moment as a turning point for the countries, which had not had any direct contact in almost two years since relations broke down over the North's missile and nuclear tests and the South's decision to close down the jointly run Kaesong industrial complex.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang welcomed North and South Korea "taking positive steps to improve ties", and said the postponement of the exercises was "without doubt a good thing".

China, meanwhile, announced that it was tightening restrictions on trade with North Korea under United Nations nuclear sanctions, imposing a cap on oil supplies to the North and banning imports of its steel and other goods.

North Korea first called on Wednesday afternoon and the countries' officials spoke for 20 minutes, mostly to ensure the communication system worked properly, according to South Korea's Ministry of Unification.

Earlier this week, Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington had heard reports that Pyongyang might be preparing to fire another missile.

  • Rogelio Becker