North Korea is reopening a vital communication hotline with South Korea

A South Korean soldier (R) stands before North Korean soldiers walking towards the military demarcation line separating North and South Korea at the truce village of Panmunjom on October 12, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
  • North Korea will reopen a hotline with South Korea at 6.30am GMT.
  • A North Korean official made the announcement on state television today.
  • South Korea believes this is the first step in regular contact between the countries.
  • The development comes as North Korea indicates its desire to send a delgation to South Korea’s Winter Olympics next month.

North Korea will reopen a communications channel with South Korea, it announced on Wednesday.

A North Korean official said on state television that the country will reopen the suspended inter-Korean communication line later today, at approximately 6:30 a.m. GMT.

The official was Ri Son-kwon, the head of North Korea’s agency that handles inter-Korean affairs. He said Kim Jong Un had made the request to allow for discussions about sending a delegation to February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

There are reports that the statement also touched on creating close ties with South Korea,

The dialogue channel will be reactivated at the Panmunjeom, the “truce village” where South Korea offered to hold talks between the two countries on January 9.

The press secretary for South Korea’s president indicated this is a move towards regular contact between the two countries.

“I believe it signals a move toward an environment where communication will be possible at all times,” Yoon Young-chan told press, reported Yonhap.

According to Korea’s flagship public international broadcaster KBS, South Korea’s Unification Ministry attempted to contact North Korea at 9 a.m. on Tuesday via the hotline at Panmunjom, but got no response.

The channel between the two countries was cut by North Korea in February 2016, after Seoul closed a joint commercial project in response to the North’s rocket launches.

The announcement comes two days after Kim Jong Un said he would be open to disussions with South Korea about the Olympics.

News also emerged today that Kim’s announcement came just a month after repeated contact attempts by South Korea. Among a small number of meetings last month, officials from both countries had a two hour discussion about the Olympics on the sideline of a football competition in China last month.

During that speech, Kim also said he had a “nuclear button” on his desk. Today, US President Donald Trump responded by saying he also had a nuclear button that is “bigger and more powerful.”

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