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North Korea reconnects military hotline with South

Inter-Korean ties make another leap amid first talks since late 2015

North Korea reconnects military hotline with South

By Alex Jensen


North Korea reopened a military hotline with the South on Tuesday in a further sign of thawing ties between Seoul and Pyongyang.

According to a South Korean government official cited by local news agency Yonhap, the hotline will be fully functioning by Wednesday morning.

The move highlighted the progress made by the Koreas in their first formal meeting in over two years.

Minister-level representatives convened at the border village of Panmunjom earlier in the day to focus on the North’s offer to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in the South next month.

North Korea is known to have offered to send a senior delegation of officials and athletes to PyeongChang 2018, while the South asked to find ways to reduce the chance of a conflict at the border among its proposals.

A joint statement issued after the talks confirmed the North had accepted South Korea’s pitch to hold military dialogue in order to reduce tensions.

The Koreas were able to arrange Tuesday’s meeting via a separate communication channel -- which like the military hotline -- was cut in 2016 during a downward spiral in bilateral relations.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended months of nuclear threats against the South by suggesting the two sides meet for dialogue during his New Year’s Day speech.

However, Kim remains hostile against the United States, raising the prospect of renewed aggression on the peninsula when South Korea and the U.S. eventually resume joint military drills.

Seoul and Washington have agreed to delay such exercises until after the Winter Paralympics in March. 

Reacting to Tuesday's north-south talks, the U.S. said it "welcomes" the development, noting Washington remains in close consultation with South Korean officials "who will ensure North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics does not violate the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council over North Korea’s unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile program".

"The United States is committed to a safe and successful Winter Olympic Games, and the United States will send a high-level presidential delegation to the Games," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

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