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North Korea Will Attend Olympics in Rival South, So What's Next?


North Korea says it's willing to send athletes and a high-level delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The news came as the rivals held their first official talks Tuesday in more than two years after high tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The talks were held in Panmunjom, a truce village in the Demilitarized Zone that splits the peninsula. The North's group walked over the Military Demarcation Line to the Peace House venue on the southern side – just yards from where a defector ran across in a hail of bullets two months ago.

While the North Koreans call it "a New Year's gift," the South sees it as reassurance the games will not be disrupted.

During the meeting, the South tried to bring up of denuclearization but received no response from their northern counterparts.

Some see the North's Olympic participation as nothing more than a ploy.

"We have to remember on November 28th they tested the latest ICBM. From what we've been able to gather, Kim Jong Un hasn't been able to finish off that missile," said Harry Kazianis with the Center for the National Interest.

"He needs heat shield technology, the ability to go on a war head and hit something like a city," he continued. "He will need a few more months to finish that off."

Kazianis says this latest move by the North has caused some division in President Donald Trump's administration.

It's been reported Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis want a peaceful solution, while National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is pushing for a "bloody nose" attack.

"The North Korean economy is the size of Vermont," Kazianis said. "It's a tiny little economy that we can put a python strategy on. We can strangulate them. As long as other countries like China and others are willing to help us. We can do that."

During the meeting both sides expressed the desire to address wider questions than the Games.

But Pyongyang has snubbed previous attempts by Seoul to set up further family reunions, saying it will not do so unless several of its citizens are returned by the South.

Security experts say North Korea could use the games to gather intelligence by placing double-agents into crowded events.

In a joint statement, North and South Korea also agreed to hold "talks" to relieve "military tensions," pledging to resolve national problems "on their own."

The Trump administration welcomes these talks.

The president said over the weekend he hoped the rare talks between the two Koreas would go "beyond the Olympics" and that Washington could join the process at a later stage.

But U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that there was "no turnaround" in the U.S. stance, reiterating that the North must stop nuclear tests for talks with Washington.

The United States and South Korea agreed last week to delay their Foal Eagle and Key Resolve military exercises until after the Games, apparently to help ease nerves.

But Mattis told CBN News, "We're always ready to act if we need be."

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