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News > World

North Korea Reopens Hotline with South in Major Diplomatic Move

  • A man peeps through a barbed-wire fence decorated with ribbons bearing messages wishing for the unification between the two Koreas near the demilitarized zone.

    A man peeps through a barbed-wire fence decorated with ribbons bearing messages wishing for the unification between the two Koreas near the demilitarized zone. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 January 2018

The border hotline, which has been closed since early 2016, will be used to discuss the North discussing participating in the Winter Olympics in the South.

North Korea reopened a long-closed border hotline with South Korea Wednesday just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un' said he was open to speaking with the South and would consider sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics to be held just across the border in Pyeongchang in February.

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The North's decision to open the border phone line came a day after South Korea proposed high-level discussions amid a tense standoff over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

That followed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year address in which he said he considered sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics, a proposal that the South welcomed. 

Kim ordered the reopening of the hotline at the truce village of Panmunjom at 3:30 p.m. local time Wednesday, when South Korean officials at the border received a call from the North, the South's unification ministry said.

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

While appearing to open the door to discussing taking part in the Winter Olympics, Kim also warned that he would push ahead with "mass producing" nuclear warheads, while claiming to have nukes that could reach the United States mainland.

The hotline with the South was shut down by North Korea in February 2016 in retaliation against the closing of a border factory town that was jointly operated by the two Koreas.

"We will try to keep close communications with the south Korean side from sincere stand(sic) and honest attitude, true to the intention of our supreme leadership, and deal with the practical matters related to the dispatch of our delegation," the North's KCNA news agency quoted Ri Son Gwon, chairman of North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, as saying.

The talks would aim to establish formal dialogue about sending a North Korean delegation to the Olympics, Ri said.

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South Korean presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said the North's decision to open the hotline had "significant meaning" because it could lead to constant communication. Meanwhile U.S. officials said that they won’t take part in any talks between the two sides unless it involved the denuclearization of the North.

That positive diplomatic gesture came only hours after Trump, who has mocked Kim as "Little Rocket Man", again ridiculed the North Korean leader on Twitter saying he too has a “Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"

Since taking office Trump has taken a more aggressive approach towards North Korea and its nuclear program than previous administrations and repeatedly dismissed the possibility of a diplomatic solution, saying Washington was ready for a military confrontation if needed.

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