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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Inter-Korean border hotline reopened after about two years

All papers reported from Seoul that a telephone hotline installed at Panmunjom between South Korea and North Korea was reopened yesterday and representatives of the two governments’ representatives exchanged greetings on the line for about 20 minutes for the first time in almost two years. Pointing out that DPRK leader Kim Jong Un had ordered the line to be reopened earlier in the day, the articles said Pyongyang is keen to display the conciliatory line toward its southern neighbor that Kim highlighted in his New Year’s message wishing for the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The papers said the recent overture by North Korea is likely to lead to the realization of a bilateral meeting by working-level officials, speculating that Pyongyang is poised to seize the initiative in setting the agenda for inter-Korean dialogue. The DPRK will probably call for the cancellation of the planned joint drill between the U.S. and South Korea customarily held in February in exchange for its sending a team to the Olympics.     

 

In a related development, most papers took up a teleconference held on Wednesday between Secretary of State Tillerson and his ROK counterpart Kang, during which the Korean minister explained Seoul’s rapprochement with North Korea. In reply, the Secretary reportedly called for close bilateral coordination. He also reportedly called for denuclearization to be given top priority. According to a source involved in the two nations’ relations cited by Asahi, although Washington has not objected to inter-Korean dialogue, it has asked Seoul to ensure that such communications do not undermine the bilateral alliance. Specifically, the U.S. has urged South Korea not to heed any request from the North for the cancellation of annual U.S.-ROK joint exercises. 

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