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North Korea

South Korea: North reopening border hotline ‘very significant’ after Kim Jong-un’s Olympics olive branch

In his New Year address, Kim Jong-un warned the US that he has a ‘nuclear button’ on his table, but suggested that the North might send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Games

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2018, 12:52pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 9:59am

North Korea reopened a cross-border communication channel with South Korea, a development officials in Seoul said was “very significant” and an important step in rebooting long-stalled dialogue.

The North’s decision to open the border phone line followed a South Korean offer on Tuesday of high-level talks with North Korea to find ways to cooperate on next month’s Winter Olympics in the South.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Monday suggested that the North might send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Games.

“The restoration of the hotline is very significant,” said chief presidential press secretary Yoon Young-chan.

“It creates an environment where communication will be possible at all times.”

Although the development was a positive sign that the Koreas were working toward improved ties, there was no guarantee that tensions would ease.

There have been repeated attempts in recent years by the rivals to talk, and even when they do meet, the efforts often end in recriminations or stalemate.

North Korea did not say whether it would accept the South Korean offer for talks.

Kim ordered the reopening of the hotline at the truce village of Panmunjom at 2.30pm Hong Kong time on Wednesday, when South Korean officials at the border received a call from the North, the South’s unification ministry said in a text message.

Officials on both sides were checking the line and conducting a conversation, the contents of which were not disclosed by the ministry.

That gesture came only hours after Trump, who has mocked Kim as “Little Rocket Man”, again ridiculed the North Korean leader on Twitter.

“Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump tweeted.

Trump and Kim have exchanged a series of bellicose comments in recent months, raising alarm across the world, with Trump at times dismissing the prospect of a diplomatic solution to a crisis in which North Korea has threatened to destroy the United States.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters