The American spy chief also questioned North Korea's sincerity in coming out for high-level talks with South Korea Tuesday.
At the same time he made overtures to Seoul, saying Pyongyang could send athletes to the Winter Olympics the South is hosting next month and expressing a willingness to discuss the issue. He also flagged the North's possible participation in the Winter Olympics and remained committed to producing nuclear missiles, warning he would launch a nuclear strike if necessary.
Seo Jae-Pyong, an official of the Association of North Korean Defectors in Seoul, said that many professional brokers who help arrange defectors' trips through China and Southeast Asian countries to the South have gone underground as a result of Beijing's crackdown. The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics will be held from February 9th to the 25th, and the Paralympics will be held from March 9th to the 18th, which would have overlapped with the biggest of the joint exercises that are held each spring, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, which involve more than 300-thousand USA and South Korean soldiers.
Asked if that meant there would be no prerequisites for such talk, the president said: "That's not what I said at all". "They'd be doing no talking or it would be much more serious". The last meeting between North and South Korean officials of ministerial rank or higher occurred in August 2015, when National Security Advisor Kim Kwan-jin and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo from South Korea and Korean People's Army General Political Bureau Chief Hwang Pyong-so and Korean Workers' Party Central Committee Secretary Kim Yang-gon from North Korea met after South Korean soldiers were maimed by a landmine that blew up near the DMZ. "If I weren't involved they wouldn't be talking at all right now", he said. He added: "They do know how to reach us if and when they are ready to engage with us as well".
"It could be meaningful, it could be important".
"We want the regime to understand that unlike before, we are intent on resolving this, and it is our firm conviction that resolving this diplomatically is the correct answer", he said, referring to the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Colonel Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement Thursday that "in the spirit of the Olympic Games, the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) will de-conflict the start of our annual U.S. -ROK joint exercises until after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics".
North Korea is not a dive bar, and the nuclear "button" is neither beer bottle nor brass knuckles. It ought to keep a close consultation with the U.S. to send a united message. The scope and extent of improving inter-Korean relations will apparently be determined during the talks themselves.