North Korea Calls Hotline to South Korea in Major Diplomatic Move
Albanian Daily News
Published January 3, 2018
North Korea and South Korea established contact for 20 minutes on a hotline that's been dormant for almost two years Wednesday, a major diplomatic breakthrough following a year of escalating hostility that could pave the way for future talks.
The country's leader Kim Jong Un gave the order to open the line at 3.00 p.m local time (1:30 a.m. ET), according to an announcement on state media in the hours before the call.
According to South Korea's Unification Ministry, the North Koreans made the call at exactly the time ordered, and the sides were on the phone from 3:30 p.m. local to 3.50 p.m. local time (South Korea is half an hour ahead of North Korea).
It's not clear what was said, though contact had been initiated after Kim expressed hope that a North Korean delegation may participate in next month's Winter Olympics, to be held in South Korea.
The call came just hours after an astonishing tweet from US President Donald Trump, who again taunted the North Korean leader, this time with a boast about the size of his nuclear button. During Kim's New Year's Day address, the North Korean leader had claimed he had a nuclear button of his own on the desk of his office.
"I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" the US President tweeted.
It's unlikely the timing of North Korea's offer of talks was related to Trump's tweet, however.
Relations between North and South Korea have warmed in recent days. During an unusually conciliatory New Year's speech, the North Korean leader extended a rare olive branch to the South, suggesting discussions about sending a North Korean team to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics should start "as soon as possible."
In response, the South Korean President Moon Jae-In called for swift measures during a Cabinet meeting Tuesday to smooth North Korea's participation in the Games.
Some analysts have said that North Korea's willingness to talk to South Korea could be an attempt to drive a wedge between the US and its South Korean ally.
"The South Korean government, being quite frightened about Washington's bellicosity, is quite ready to welcome the North Korean initiative, and this might lead to an annoyance in the US," said Andrei Lankov from Seoul's Kookmin University.
Others argue that talks between the Koreas could be advantageous for Washington. Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing says all forms of communication should be welcomed.
"A better North-South relationship would help Washington and the international community to better understand North Korea and to talk it into taking substantive measures of self-restraint," he said.