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People watch a television news screen showing a picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un delivering a statement in Pyongyang. Photo: Jung Yeon-je / AFP / Getty Images

South Korea has proposed high-level talks with North Korea next week in the border town, Panmunjom. This comes after Kim Jong-un suggested in his New Year's Day speech that the two countries "urgently meet," per the NYT. The key topics up for discussion: military exercises and the Olympics.

Why it matters: It would be the first official dialogue between the two countries since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office last year. Moon has been pushing for talks, whereas Trump's approach has been to keep a military option on the table.

  • The North and South used to communicate through a telephone hotline in Panmunjom, until 2016 when former South Korean president Park Geun-hye shut it down. The South's point man for North Korean relations recommended this week that the countries reopen that line.

What Kim said: He suggested Monday that his country send a delegation of athletes to participate in the winter Olympics, which will be hosted this February in South Korea.

  • Picture this: North Korean athletes traveling across the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries. It would be quite the symbolism to mark the outset of 2018 after a year of tensions ratcheting up over potential conflict on the Korean peninsula.
  • The two countries marched together at the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympics and of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the same year they held their first summit meeting.
  • Kim also touted the DPRK's nuclear capabilities and suggested the two countries build peace. "Above all, we must ease the acute military tensions between the North and the South…The North and the South should no longer do anything that would aggravate the situation," Kim said.
  • He also suggested South Korea and the U.S. end their joint military drills, which the North interprets as preparation for invasion. This could potentially add tension to the South's relationship with the U.S., per the NYT.

Trump weighed in, pointing out that the North's interest in talking is "Perhaps…good news, perhaps not – we will see!"

Go deeper with the NYT's Choe Sang-hun

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

6 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.