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Restoring the phone line will allow discussion on whether North Korea will attend the Winter Olympics.

North Korea to reopen hotline to South to discuss Olympics

A Korean soldier on the southern side of the border speaks on a telephone, which appears to be heavy-duty and military in natureImage copyright AFP
Image caption A 2005 file photo shows a South Korean officer communicate with a northern counterpart near the Demilitarised Zone

North Korea has said it will reopen a telephone hotline to South Korea, to facilitate talks on its possible participation in the Winter Olympics.

Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported that the inter-Korean communications channel would be restored at 15:30 local time (06:30 GMT) on Wednesday.

It comes after Kim Jong-un said he was “open to dialogue” with Seoul and to sending a team to the Games.

The two nations have not held high-level talks since December 2015.

A North Korean official announced the telephone hotline’s re-opening in a televised statement.

He said the two nations would discuss the practical issues around a proposal to send a North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February.

“We will discuss working-level issues over our potential dispatch of the delegation,” Yonhap quoted the official as saying.

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Media captionTensions are high between the two warring countries

South Korea had indicated that the North’s participation in the Games would be welcomed.

In a New Year’s Day speech, Mr Kim Jong-un spoke of lowering tensions and of melting “frozen North-South relations”.

He said attending the Games would be “a good opportunity to show unity of the people” in North Korea.

Seoul offered high-level talks in response, with President Moon Jae-in calling it a “groundbreaking chance” to improve relations.

It is not yet clear whether North Korea will accept that offer, but the opening of the hotline will allow for preliminary discussions to be held.

The North cut off communications in 2016 following a row over the Kaesong joint industrial complex.

South Korea says it has not answered calls on the hotline since.

On Tuesday, a South Korean official said they had been trying to call since Mr Kim’s speech but there had been no answer.

The press secretary for President Moon said the restoration of the hotline was “very significant”.

“It creates an environment where communication will be possible at all times,” he told AFP.

North Korea has come under increasing international pressure in the past year over its nuclear weapons programme.

Responding to the developments this week, US President Donald Trump tweeted earlier that economic sanctions and external pressure were “beginning to have a big impact”.

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