Two children in Seoul, South Korea, sit beside the mascots of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games: an Olympics tiger and a Paralympics bear. (Ahn Young-Joon/AP)

South Korea on Tuesday offered high-level talks with rival North Korea to find ways to cooperate on next month's Winter Olympics, which will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea. The proposal offers the possibility of better ties after a year of nuclear weapons tests and threats of war on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Monday that he was willing to send athletes to the Olympics, though he also repeated threats against the United States. Analysts say Kim may be trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its ally Washington.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed Kim's proposal. Moon wants to use the Winter Games as a chance to improve ties with the North.

The International Olympic Committee said it has been talking to North Korea about attending the Games.

North Korea did not immediately react. Formal meetings between the two countries would be the first in two years.

Talks could provide a temporary thaw in strained ties between the two Koreas, but conservative critics worry that they may only earn the North time to perfect its nuclear weapons. After the Olympics, the relationship could become frosty again because the North has made clear it has no intention of accepting international calls to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea to help deter potential aggression from the North, a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended with an agreement to stop fighting, not a peace treaty.