N Korea to reopen hotline to South

N Korea to reopen hotline to South

Seoul, Jan 3 (Just News): North Korea has said it will reopen a hotline to South Korea, to facilitate talks on its possible participation in the Winter Olympics.

The inter-Korean communications channel would be restored at 15:30 local time (06:30 GMT) on Wednesday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

It comes after Kim Jong-un said he was "open to dialogue" with Seoul and to sending a team to the Games.

The two nations have not held high-level talks since December 2015.

The following year, North Korea cut off the communications channel, refusing to answer calls, according to officials in the South.

A North Korean official announced the hotline's re-opening in a televised statement on Tuesday.

He said the two nations would discuss the practical issues around a proposal to send a North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February.

"We will discuss working-level issues over our potential dispatch of the delegation," Yonhap quoted the official as saying.

South Korea had indicated that the North's participation in the Games would be welcomed.

In a New Year's Day speech, Mr Kim Jong-un spoke of lowering tensions and of melting "frozen North-South relations".

He said attending the Games would be "a good opportunity to show unity of the people" in North Korea.

Seoul offered high-level talks in response, with President Moon Jae-in calling it a "groundbreaking chance" to improve relations.

It is not yet clear whether North Korea will accept that offer, but the opening of the hotline will allow for preliminary discussions to be held.

The North cut off communications on the line in 2016, following a row over the Kaesong joint industrial complex.

On Tuesday, a South Korean official said they had been trying to call since Mr Kim's speech but there had been no reply.

The press secretary for President Moon said the restoration of this communications channel was "very significant".

"It creates an environment where communication will be possible at all times," he told AFP.

North Korea has come under increasing international pressure in the past year over its nuclear weapons programme.

Responding to the developments this week, US President Donald Trump tweeted earlier that economic sanctions and external pressure were "beginning to have a big impact".

On Tuesday, he boasted that his nuclear button is "much bigger" and "more powerful" than the North Korean leader's.