North Korea opens phone line to the south for the first time in two years
North Korea has reopened a closed border hotline with neighbours South Korea that could become a constant line of communication between the countries.
It is believed the phone line has been opened so officials can discuss the prospect of North Korea sending a delegation across the border for the Winter Olympics.
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The Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February, and were mentioned by Kim Jong-un in his New Year’s message.
Kim ordered the line, in the truce village Panmunjom, to open at 6.30am on Wednesday.
South Korea’s unification ministry said officials on both sides checked the line and spoke for about 20 minutes after the north made the call.
It comes after South Korea called for high-level discussions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes.
In his New Year address, Kim said he would consider sending officials to the Winter Olympics, but also warned the US he had a nuclear button on his desk.
This prompted Donald Trump to hit back in a tweet reading: ‘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!’
US officials said they would not take talks between the two countries seriously if they did not contribute to denuclearising North Korea.
The hotline was shut down by North Korea in February 2016 in retaliation against the closure of a border factory town jointly operated by the two Koreas.
Ri Son Gwon, chairman of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, said the talks would centre around the delegation’s trip to the south.
State news agency KCNA quoted him as saying: ‘We will try to keep close communications with the south Korean side from sincere stand and honest attitude, true to the intention of our supreme leadership, and deal with the practical matters related to the dispatch of our delegation.’
South Korean presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said the North’s decision has ‘significant meaning’ because it could lead to constant communication.