SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 1 (UPI) — North Korea may demand a price for its participation in the Winter Olympics next month, a South Korean think tank said Monday.
This comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un showed willingness to send over a team of athletes to participate in the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea next month.
Kim said in his televised New Year’s address that the two Koreas should have “immediate talks” on the matter, Yonhap reported.
South Korea’s presidential office welcomed Kim’s interest and suggestion to hold talks.
The South’s state-run Institute for National Security Strategy, however, cautioned that a North Korean team is likely to come with strings attached, as the regime would see the move as a service that “helps” the South.
South Korea has been pushing for the North’s participation in the global sporting event as a means to reduce regional tensions during the games as well as a momentum to improve inter-Korean relations.
As international sanctions against the regime’s continuous nuclear and missile provocations take a toll on the North Korean economy, Pyongyang may request the easing of international sanctions, economic cooperation and humanitarian assistance, the institute said in its report analyzing Kim’s New Year speech.
It said the North is likely refrain from conducting a missile or nuclear test before it reaches a decision on whether to take part in the games.
However, if South Korea and the United States hold joint military drills after the Olympics are held, the North could launch another act of provocation, the institute said.
South Korean President Moon Jae In proposed postponing the annual war games until the Olympic and Paralympic games are over, in order to defuse geopolitical tensions and improve ties with the North which sees the joint drills as a rehearsal for war.
On Monday, Kim called for the halt of military exercises simulating “nuclear war that will lead to bloodshed.”
Seoul’s defense ministry said a decision on rescheduling the drills hasn’t been reached yet and that the military is in the process of analyzing Kim’s speech, DongA Ilbo reported.