North Korea Just Called South Korea on a Hotline

Communications channel is open for first time since 2016
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2018 6:12 AM CST
Updated Jan 3, 2018 6:39 AM CST
In a Surprise, North Korea Calls South on Hotline
A South Korean government official communicates with a North Korean officer during a phone call on the dedicated communications hotline at the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018.   (Yonhap via AP)

The nuclear rhetoric between the White House and Kim Jong Un may be escalating, but relations between North and South Korea continue to ease. On Wednesday, the North reopened a communications hotline between the two nations that had been closed since 2016, reports Reuters. A North Korean officer acting on Kim's orders placed a call on the hotline and spoke for about 20 minutes to a South Korean counterpart in the border village of Panmunjom. The call was described essentially as a systems check, but it's expected to lead to lengthier discussions about the possibility of North Korea sending a delegation to the February Olympics in South Korea.

This latest thaw in relations began when Kim expressed hope for better ties in a New Year's Day speech, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in responded in kind. A North Korean official speaking on state TV Wednesday said Kim "highly appreciated and welcomed" the South's response. The reopening of the communications hotline is a milestone, analysts tell NBC News, but they don't expect any resulting talks to lead to North Korea giving up its nuclear arsenal. In fact, one theory is that Kim had been waiting to reopen such talks until his nation's nuclear arsenal was capable of striking the US mainland, a milestone the North claims to have reached. Wednesday's call came hours after President Trump boasted that his "nuclear button" was bigger than Kim's. (More North Korea stories.)

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