Panamanian vessel probed over suspected oil supplies to N. Korea

South Korea offers high-level talks with North

In this December 23, 2017, photo distributed on December 24, 2017, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addresses a ruling party conference in Pyongyang.

After North Korea tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in November, which it said was capable of delivering a warhead to anywhere in the United States, Kim declared his nuclear force complete.

"The Winter Olympic Games that will be held soon in the South will be a good opportunity to display the status of the Korean nation and we sincerely wish that the event will be held with good results", Kim said. (This may not be the case in a crisis, where Kim Jong-un may be forced to tolerate some level of predelegation to retain credible retaliatory capability.) Kim, nevertheless, appeared pleased with his arrangement: "The U.S. could never launch a military attack on me", he said.

Kim's hostile comments were offset by a diplomatic message.

"When it comes to North-South relations, we should lower the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula to create a peaceful environment", Kim said.

"The government proposes (to the DPRK) holding a senior-level inter-governmental dialogue of the South and the North (Koreas) on January 9 at Peace House in Panmunjom", South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told a press conference. "We need to mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles and accelerate their deployment".

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Lee Hee-beom, president of the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, said it welcomed North Korean participation and would "discuss relevant matters with the South Korean government as well as the International Olympic Committee".

South Korea has seized and inspected a Panama-flagged ship suspected of selling oil to North Korea at sea in violation of United Nations sanctions, maritime authorities said, according to Yonhap News Agency reported.

Kim also indicated an interest in sending a delegation to participate in the Winter Olympics, which its southern neighbor is scheduled to host in February, according to the report.

Or perhaps Kim is simply looking to pursue détente with the South and deterrence of the USA on separate tracks.

The implication, for now, is simple: Kim Jong-un's nuclear forces are operational and ready to deter the United States and retaliate to any first strike that would seek to either disarm Kim Jong-un of his weapons or kill him. "These weapons will be used only if our security is threatened". If the Olympics become a vehicle for rapprochement between the Koreas, and especially if that entails a pause in our war games, Kim may be trying to get the tail to wag the dog, forcing Washington to follow Seoul's lead into détente.

The Peace House is a building in Panmunjom controlled by South Korea.

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