The government on Tuesday proposed high-level talks with North Korea to discuss its participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
The offer came in response to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un saying in a New Year's address that he is willing to send a delegation to the Olympics and added both Koreas "could urgently meet" to discuss the matter.
President Moon Jae-in welcomed the proposal hours later. In a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Moon said, "I believe Kim's New Year speech... came in response to our proposal to make the games an epoch-making opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations and achieve peace. I welcome it."
He also instructed the Foreign Ministry to hold discussions with the major allies to ensure that a two-track method of improving inter-Korean relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear threat can be pursued simultaneously.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon proposed that officials from the two Koreas meet next Tuesday in the border truce village of Panmunjom.
"We hope that the South and North can sit face to face and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the Pyeongchang Games, as well as other issues of mutual interest for the improvement of inter-Korean ties," he told reporters.
But North Korea did not respond to a call from a South Korean liaison official in the border truce village. A statement in the official [North] Korean Central News Agency after Kim's speech called on South Korea to "separate itself from the shameful dependence on foreign powers."
The U.S. dismissed the offer. U.S. President Donald Trump's belligerent envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, said, "We won't take any of the talks seriously if they don't do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea."
"We don't think we need a band-aid, and we don't think we need to smile and take a picture. We think that we need to have them stop nuclear weapons, and they need to stop it now," she added. "So North Korea can talk with anyone they want, but the U.S. is not going to recognize it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have."
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon talks to reporters at the government complex in Seoul on Tuesday.