South Korean peace activists carry the Flag of Korean Peninsula Woohae Cho/Getty Images

From PyeongChang to Peace?

Since coming to power in 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been committed to two parallel goals: a robust nuclear weapons program and economic development. With the first goal ostensibly achieved, Kim is now attempting to chart a path toward the second, by launching a charm offensive toward the South.

SEOUL – After some two years of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the reprieve, however brief, that the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of  PyeongChang promises to bring is more than welcome. But, with some military experts estimating that the probability of war now surpasses 50%, complacency is not an option.

After years of accelerated missile development, which culminated in successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and, allegedly, a hydrogen bomb last year, North Korea’s nuclear program has become an imminent threat not only to its neighbors, but also to the United States. The response of US President Donald Trump’s administration – which has included unprecedented saber-rattling on Twitter – has escalated tensions further.

Yet, on January 1, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for better relations with the South, before agreeing to participate in the Olympics. What accounts for Kim’s sudden extension of an olive branch to South Korea?

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