Thaw hopes rise as Kim opens hotline

Top News | 4 Jan 2018

North Korea reopened a long-closed border hotline with South Korea yesterday, a day after Seoul proposed high-level discussions amid a tense standoff over the North's missile and nuclear programs.

That followed North leader Kim Jong Un's New Year address, in which he 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 next month.

However, US officials said Washington would not take any talks seriously if they did not contribute to denuclearizing North Korea. A State Department spokeswoman said North Korea "might be trying to drive a wedge of some sort."

Kim ordered the reopening of the hotline at the truce village of Panmunjom. Officials on both sides were checking the line and conducted a conversation for about 20 minutes, the contents of which were not disclosed.

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 in defiance of UN sanctions.

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

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.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said both Koreas should seize the Olympics as an opportunity to improve ties.

REUTERS

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