As Koreas agree to talk, China ups pressure on the North

The following day, Seoul offered to Pyongyang holding a senior-level, inter-governmental dialogue on January 9 at the Peace House in the truce village of Panmunjom, which straddles the heavily guarded inter-Korean land border.

North Korea's call came half an hour later.

In a New Year's Day speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared that Pyongyang possessed weapons capable of striking the mainland US and insisted that the world would have to accept his country as a nuclear-armed state.

US and South Korean officials decided after a phone call between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to wait to conduct the drills until after the Olympics.

During the phone dialogue, Moon said South Korea will closely cooperate with the United States while having inter-Korean talks, stressing that inter-Korean talks would certainly help create an atmosphere for dialogue between the DPRK and the United States to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

In a tweet, Trump, who hurled fresh insults at the North Korean leader this week, took credit for any dialogue that takes place.

Lambasting "failed "experts" discussing the matter as "fools", Trump questioned whether the two nations would have engaged in conversation had he not been "firm, strong and willing to commit our total "might" against the North".

A visitor takes picture in front of ribbons wishing for the reunification of the two Koreas.

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The North sees these drills as preparations for invasion and just cause for its weapons programs that it conducts in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

State-run media in the North reported that the head of a Pyongyang's agency handling inter-Korean affairs had announced the hotline, which went dead roughly two years ago, would be restored, according the South's Yonhap News Agency.

The United States must avoid meddling in exploratory talks between senior North and South Korean officials to allow the parties to make progress towards a settlement, former Canadian diplomat Patrick Armstrong told Sputnik.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera sounded a note of caution about the proposed talks. "We have no intention of weakening our warning and surveillance".

The development comes amid signs of a thaw between North and South despite tensions that have soared between the two - as well as between Washington and Pyongyang - during recent months over the North's ongoing nuclear weapons and missile tests.

Commercial satellite imagery from December 25 showed a rail-mounted environment shelter had been moved away from a test stand, indicating that an engine test may be in the near future, the website said, rather than a new rocket launch suspected in recent media reports.

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