North Korea on Sunday slammed President Moon Jae-in's fresh commitment to denuclearization and warned it can still call off its participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
"They should know that train and bus carrying our delegation to the Olympics are still in Pyongyang," the official KCNA news agency grumbled. "We will as ever strive to improve the North-South ties but will never remain an onlooker to sordid acts of chilling the efforts."
The North was peeved by Moon's remarks at a New Year's press conference Wednesday that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula "is a fundamental aim that can never be compromised." Moon also hailed sanctions and pressure led by U.S. President Donald Trump.
But the North also tried to make hay from the Olympics for propaganda purposes. Responding to South Korea's offer on Friday of working-level talks, the North Korea suggested meeting on Monday to discuss the sending its Moranbong troupe, which specializes in sugary hail and praise of the North Korean leader.
Seoul accepted the offer but was clearly disappointed that the North seems to have no wish to discuss more substantial matters.
In high-level talks last week, North Korea complained bitterly that Seoul brought up the issue of its nuclear program but insisted on sending a vast contingent of bell-ringers with its minuscule athletic team.
Some athletes who did not qualify for the Olympics will be given wild-card status and a taekwondo demonstration team takes part, so there will probably be fewer than 20 athletes. But by some estimates they will be accompanied by 400 to 500 cheerleaders of one kind of another.
Prof. Kim Keun-sik at Kyungnam University said, "They clearly intend to turn the sporting event into a stage for political propaganda."
The performers may even wear North Korean military uniforms and project videos on stage praising Kim Jong-un or depicting missile launches.
During the Moranbong troupe's visit to Beijing in December 2015, a scheduled concert was called off at the last minute because they wanted to project a North Korea's missile launch in the background.