North Korea announced on Wednesday the reopening of the inter-Korean telephone line with the aim of facilitating contacts between both countries on their possible participation in the Winter Olympics. Pyongyang has announced that this communication channel, located in the border village of Panmunjom and that had been in disuse for two years, is operational again from 3:00 p.m.
The move comes just two days after Kim Jong-un called to dialogue with the South in his New Year’s speech. “Ratifying the will of our leader, we will maintain close and sincere contact,” he told North Korean state television Ri Son-Gwon, who heads the institution in charge of managing inter-Korean affairs, according to the South Korean agency Yonhap.
The high-ranking official did not make any reference to the proposal made Tuesday by the South to hold face-to-face “high-level” talks next week and merely said that “the potential sending of a delegation” to the Games will be discussed, which will be held between February 9 and 25 in the South Korean city of PyeongChang.
The border telephone line between the two Koreas had not been operational for almost two years after Pyongyang opted to cut communication channels with the South. The decision was made in retaliation for the decision of the then South Korean executive who closed the industrial complex of Kaesong, the largest project to date of economic cooperation between the two countries and an important source of income for the North Korean regime.
According to Ri’s announcement, Kim Jong-un “welcomed” the support of South Korean President Moon Jae-in for his offer of dialogue and assured that an improvement in inter-Korean relations “depends totally on the North and the South.” The South Korean presidential office welcomed the Pyongyang movement. “I think it signals an advance towards an environment in which communication will be possible at all times,” said Yoon Young-chan, spokesperson for Casa Azul.
The South Korean Unification Ministry stressed that the first contact, of 20 minutes, has already taken place with the aim of checking several technical aspects, and that it will use this telephone line to negotiate with the neighboring country the details of its proposal. bilateral dialogue.
The organizing committee of the Olympic Winter Games has added to the optimism of the South Korean government and has assured that they are prepared to welcome the North Korean delegation if both countries reach an agreement. The governor of Gangwon province, where PyeongChang is located, has suggested sending a cruise to a North Korean port to transport the team, a ship that would also serve as a hotel during the days of competition. It would be the same formula that was used during the 2002 Asian Games, held in the South Korean city of Busan.
The relationship between the two Koreas has undergone a significant change in just two days as a result of the surprisingly conciliatory tone of Kim Jong-un during his New Year’s speech. The North Korean leader called for improving relations with Seoul and considered the Games “a good opportunity to show the unity of the people.”
While both countries begin an apparent thaw, Donald Trump has again charged with force against the regime of the North. The US president has assured in a tweet that he has in his hand a nuclear button “bigger and more powerful” than Kim Jong-un, in reference to the warnings that the North Korean dictator had launched hours earlier against Washington during his speech from January 1. Trump blamed the sudden shift of Pyongyang “to the great impact of sanctions and other pressures” and doubted the effectiveness of the talks that will come: “Maybe it’s good news, maybe not, we’ll see!”