A possible breakthrough in diplomatic ties- for the first time in nearly two years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has re-opened its ‘hotline’ communication channel with the Republic of Korea.
Now that the two Koreas are in contact, could this lead to face-to-face talks?
CGTN’s Jack Barton has more from Seoul.
“The government welcomes North Korea’s positive response to our suggestion to normalize the border hotline,” said Baik Tae-Hyun, spokesperson for Seoul’s Unification Ministry. “We will consult with North Korea over working-level issues of our inter-Korean talks offered through this hotline.”
The hotline was cut by Pyongyang in 2016 after Seoul shuttered a jointly-run industrial complex.
Its re-connection comes after DPRK leader Kim Jong Un said his country would send a delegation to the Winter Games in February, which will be held in PyeongChang, about 80 kilometers south of the heavily armed demilitarized zone.
Republic of Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has long hoped the DPRK would attend, and that attendance could lead to talks on denuclearization.
For now, the DPRK wants to keep communication simple.
“It’s about finding the right time to have talks about sending people to the PyeongChang Olympics,” said Ri Son Gwon, Chairman of the DPRK’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.
In his New Year speech, DPRK’s leader Kim Jong Un said the country had no plans to halt its program to build nuclear tipped missiles.
“The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons,” Kim Jong Un said. “And a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is a reality, not a threat.”
U.S. president Donald Trump responded to that message with a tweet, stating his button is ‘bigger,’ ‘more powerful’ and works.
Trump’s tweets reflect widespread skepticism in the United States where there is concern that talks between Seoul and Pyongyang could drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.
In the Republic of Korea, the mood is more upbeat. The government hopes the winter Olympics could be a window of opportunity to de-escalate tensions on the peninsula. But Korean intelligence officials say there are signs another missile test could be just days away.