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North Korea reopens hotline with South Korea in diplomatic breakthrough

South Korea has offered to hold talks with the North on 9 January.

ADDITION South Korea Koreas Tensions A South Korean government official checks the direct-phone call to talk with the North Korean side Source: South Korea Unification Ministry via AP

UN SECRETARY GENERAL Antonio Guterres has welcomed the reopening of a hotline between North and South Korea and voiced hope for more diplomatic initiatives to end the peninsula’s nuclear standoff.

Yesterday, North and South Korea reopened the communication channel that had been shut since 2016, following an offer from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to send a team to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

“It is always a positive development to have a dialogue between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

Guterres “welcomes the reopening of the inter-Korean communication channel”, he added.

UN Security Council resolutions call for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and “we hope that enhanced diplomatic initiatives will help to achieve that goal”, said Haq.

South Korea has offered to hold talks with the North on 9 January to discuss “matters of mutual interest” including the North’s Olympic participation.

Guterres’ support for inter-Korean dialogue stood in contrast to remarks from US Ambassador Nikki Haley, who on Tuesday dismissed the overtures between Pyongyang and Seoul as a “Band-Aid”.

The United States, backed by Japan, is pushing for sanctions and total isolation of Kim’s regime in response to a series of missile launches and nuclear tests.

Russia, and North Korea’s sole major ally China have repeatedly called for talks to de-escalate tensions, but the United States has been adamant that Pyongyang must first freeze its military programs.

Haley warned on Tuesday that if Pyongyang carries out another missile test, it would face the likelihood of even more sanctions.

The Security Council adopted a new raft of sanctions on 22 December to restrict oil supplies to North Korea - the third set of measures imposed on Pyongyang in a year.

© – AFP 2018

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