S.Korea welcomes Kim's offer for dialogue

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But U.S. -based experts saw Kim's speech as a clear attempt to divide Seoul from its main ally, Washington, which has led an global campaign to pressure North Korea through sanctions to give up weapons programs aimed at developing nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.

Moon's comments contrasted with those of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who said on Monday that Seoul should stop asking foreign countries for help in improving ties between the two Koreas.

South Korea has offered high-level talks with rival North Korea meant to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics set to begin in the South next month.

It is possible officials from the two countries may meet in the near future to discuss the idea, he said, adding that he hoped the event was successful. The implication of the statement was clear: Kim, and only Kim, could launch North Korea's nuclear weapons.

Kim also stressed North Korea's economic achievements during the speech, and noted the importance of improving the nation's standard of living.

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September in defiance of worldwide sanctions, raising fears of a new conflict on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea said it welcomed Kim's offer.

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Earlier Tuesday, Moon spoke of Kim's positive response to earlier South Korean dialogue overtures and ordered officials to study how to restore talks with North Korea and get the North to participate in the Olympics.

"He wants to convince the global community that his nuclear weapons are purely for self-defense and wants to have a negotiated solution with the United States on the basis that he gets to keep its nuclear deterrent capability, Zhao said".

Asked to comment on Kim's speech, U.S. President Donald Trump said: "We'll see, we'll see", as he walked into a New Year's Eve celebration at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. "The United States will never start a war with me and our country", he said, adding that Pyongyang has "completed the creation of North Korea's nuclear forces".

Kim's customary New Year's speech is closely watched for indications of the policy direction the unpredictable and reclusive leader is likely to pursue in the coming year. Last year, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and test-launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of its push to possess a nuclear missile capable of reaching anywhere in the United States.

His remarks come after both the US and the United Nations slapped repeated rounds of sanctions against the state in response to Pyongyang's aggressive weapons testing.

China drew President Trump's ire last week after reports emerged that it is sending oil shipments to North Korea.

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